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Last week I traveled to Trinidad, a municipality located in the northeast part of Bohol province. It takes approximately 2 ½ hours to get to this more rural area from Tagbilaran City. There are a handful of options one can select from when traveling between the two points, but the most common mode of transportation is the V-Hire (Van for Hire).

Now when traveling by V-Hire, it is typical for 18 people to cram into the van, resembling sardines in a can. Squeezing 4 people to each row, fitting 3 more on the ledge behind the driver’s row, and having 2 conductors crouched on the little floor space that is left, is considered the norm. If you’re able to visualize that image, you can be certain that the concept of personal space does not exist. On occasion, the engine may stall, or even worse, fail. And on even more rare and exciting instances, the van door may fall off.

The driver working his magic while we're all hoping that his attempt to re-attach the door will be successful.

My first experience with V-Hire was quite memorable since I was able to witness not one, not two, but all three incidents during my travel. Little did I know that my experience with V-Hire was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Trinidad had in store for me.

As we got closer to our destination, the roads widened to reveal expanses of rice fields- some lush and green, some recently tilled (and very muddy!), while others were studded with farmers busy planting the next crop cycle and oxen.

Rice in the Philippines – A Few Quick Facts:

  • 30% of the total arable land (2.7 million hectares) in the Philippines is used to cultivate rice
  • Rice accounts for 35% of the average caloric intake of Filipino households, and up to 65% in the lowest income quartile
  • 75% of Filipino farmers, approximately 11.5 million people, engage in rice farming related activities
  • The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world’s largest research center on rice, is located in Laguna, Philippines and is recognized as the birthplace of the Green Revolution in Asia
  • Unfortunately, studies have shown that the average Filipino farmer is only 40% as efficient as those farmers who have access to capital and are able to invest in their rice production activities and benefit from agricultural technologies
  • Some of the major challenges that rice farmers in the Philippines face include: high production costs, limited access to credit facilities (due to the lack of financial institutions in rural areas), issues with the local irrigation systems, and unpredictable crop yields that are in part determined by weather (typhoons, drought), insects and pests, and disease outbreaks

Source: Department of Agriculture, Republic of the Philippines

Rice is a staple in the Filipino diet- any meal lacking rice is considered a snack and unfulfilling by most. In my short time here, I’ve learned that most Filipinos consume a minimum of 3 bowls of rice daily. My personal best has been 2 bowls of rice in one day but my MFI has made it their mission to build my rice tolerance.

Approximately 28% of the loans availed from Community Economic Ventures, Inc (CEVI) are crop loans, and the majority are used to finance rice production. I was able to visit Kiva borrower Josefina to learn a bit more about rice farming. As she planted away, she began singing the Filipino folk song Magtanim Ay ‘Di Biro (translated in English) to describe the tedious chore of planting rice.

As you can see from the video above, though rice is a critical component of the Filipino culture and economy, planting and harvesting rice requires a lot of manual labor and well, apparently it’s never fun either!

Kaajal Laungani is a Kiva Fellow at Community Economic Ventures, Inc (CEVI) in Bohol, Philippines. Although she had quite the adventure on V-Hire, she hopes that her future experiences with public transportation around Bohol will be a little less exciting.

Support rice farmers such as Josefina. Visit Kiva.org and make an agriculture loan today!

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