JIABONG, Samar – The operationalization of a common service facility by a pop rice producer-agrarian reform beneficiaries organization (ARBO) based in this fifth class municipality was recognized on Friday by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as this year’s best Grant-in-Aid (GIA) science and technology project implemented in Eastern Visayas.
Cantongtong Agrarian Rice Farmers Association (CARFA) bested five other contenders coming from the five other provinces in the region and received ₱5,000 cash prize.
This was announced during the virtual culmination activity of the weeklong celebration of DOST-8’s National Science and Technology Week held on November 9-13, with this year’s theme, “Agham at Teknolohiya: Sandigan ng Kabuhayan, Kaayusan at Kinabukasan".
OIC-Regional Director Ismael Aya-ay of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) sent his congratulatory message to CARFA for the honors they are reaping now. Aya-ay is happy to know that CARFA is taking advantage of all the assistance and opportunities extended to them.
He likewise commended those responsible at the DAR Samar Provincial Office and at the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office of Jiabong for a job well done.
According to Engr. Ramil Uy, DOST-8 Information Officer, CARFA stood out for its best practices and community participation as well as its socio-economic impact.
Uy disclosed that the judges were moved by the transformation of CARFA which started producing pop rice the traditional way until they were able to acquire modern equipment through the combined assistance of DOST, DAR and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
CARFA is composed of 46 rice farmers. According to Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer (MARPO) Thelma Alfaro, 41 of the members are agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). Thus, DAR organized them into an association in 2012, Alfaro added.
For additional income, CARFA produced pop rice made from leftover rice that are sun-dried and fried to puff the grains.
DAR Samar Provincial Office’s Enterprise Development and Economic Support point person, Monica Bato (now MARPO), disclosed that in 2016 CARFA became a recipient of a processing facility under DAR’s Village Level Farm-Focused Enterprise Development (VLFED) project.
Later, it received more assistance under the DAR, DTI-CARP, DOST Regional Synchronization, as well as from the provincial government under then Governor Sharee Ann Tan.
From the various assistance, CARFA was able to procure modern equipment, exposed to skills training, and was able to comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
Bato further disclosed that with the ₱250,000 Grant-in-Aid from the DOST, CARFA was able to acquire nitrogen gas flushing packaging machine and stainless pre-cutter molders. They were also able to undergo training on Good Manufacturing Practices, which led to FDA’s approval in granting the association in 2018 the License to Operate (LTO), making them eligible to penetrate a wider market for their product, Bato explained.
From plain pop rice they used to produce, CARFA has now nine available flavors to choose from: peanut, pili, cookies and cream, vanilla, sesame seeds, marshmallow, choco-coated, pandan and butter.
In 2019, CARFA’s sales of pop rice had increased by 50 percent with 4,470 packs sold. It has also generated employment at least for its members. (JOSE ALSMITH L. SORIA)