MAY 17, 2007
 (MALAYA) By BERNICE P. VARONA - An innovative agricultural program from UP Los BaŮos (UPLB) is now benefiting thousands of farmers. As any farmer knows, bringing crops and pests together usually spells disaster. But one of UPLBís agricultural programs just happens to make it a lucrative and mutually beneficial affair.

Started in 2005, "The Agricultural Systems Cluster (ASC) Rice-Duck Model" is a development program implemented by the UPLB College of Agriculture (COA) in partnership with the Office of Provincial Veterinarian, Offices of Municipal Agriculturists, and farmer associations.

Today, the program involves the participation of 100 farmer-cooperators in four rice-duck zones (RDZs) with pilot sites in Laguna, particularly in the towns of Victoria, Sta. Cruz, and Siniloan, and San Pablo City.

What the Rice-Duck model does is create a way for the mallard ducks and the rice fields to literally live together. "Traditionally, rice and ducks are raised separately, but significant gains can be realized by raising both in the same field," Dr. Rectorino P. Escobin, Jr., a University Researcher of the ASC who won an award in the 2005 World Bank Development Marketplace Global Competition for his research, said.

The ducks can control the golden snail population, which will in turn improve rice field productivity. Duck farmers will benefit from cheaper duck feed, while rice farmers will gain from an environmentally friendly and inexpensive way to fight the destructive snails."

Aside from providing additional income for the farmers, the "Duck Ranger" program is environmentally friendly as the ducks act as natural control agents, and so help minimize the use of expensive and hazardous chemicals, traditionally used against pests such as insects, weeds, rats, and golden snails.

Dr. Escobinís entry to the World Bank competition, "The Duck Ranger: Realizing the Multi-fold Benefits of Rice-Duck Systems," was among the 31 winners out of the 2,700 proposals submitted that year. The World Bank funds the program through a development grant as a part of the winnersí package.

The production of movable duck sheds that will house the free-ranging ducks as they move from one place to another will also facilitate this integrated farming model," Escobin explained. "The ASC Rice-Duck Model integrates 100 mallard ducks in at least one hectare of rice field. We provide support for the creation of the duck sheds of the beneficiaries, where locally available materials are used for construction. The sheds usually measure 100 square feet and are located on elevated ground to avoid flooding, as the ducks donít like muddy sheds."

The duck sheds have GI sheets as roofs, coco lumber as posts and frames, and used nets or bamboos for walls.

The program has so far conducted several activities in various communities to further expand its reach and incorporate improvements. These include participatory training

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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