Wednesday, March 1, 2023 - 11:50

No More Dead Air

Initiatives and interventions have been introduced to farmers as result of researches, especially with the advent of climate change, through various modality that make sure farmers receive such information. However, farmers in the countryside and farflung areas cannot cope with the changing times easily and faster. Also, Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs) cannot really cater to all farmers to offer government interventions that they really need.  Hence, the Department of Agriculture looked into other options where they can cater larger number of farmers, regardless of their distance. Despite the existence of new modalities, school-on-the-air remains as one of the effective tools to reachout farmers and ensure that they learn even the newest technology at the comfort of their farms and homes.

Distance learning for an extra mile job

With the implementation of a radio-based distance learning program on modern rice agriculture, the so-called School-on-the-Air on Smart Rice Agriculture (SOA-SRA) program dubbed as Palay Aralan: Makabagong Pagsasaka sa Himpapawid featured smart rice production technologies developed by the R&D agencies. Further, it helped catalyze agriculture modernization through massive and sustained education of smallholder farmers and local intermediaries on modern and innovative technologies and approaches to help maximize rice productivity in medium and low yield provinces.

The SOA-SRA is a unified educational program spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office with ATI, PhilRice, State Universities and Colleges and local radio networks as major partners.  Started in year 2021 with a targeted reach of 300,000 farmers nationwide catering provinces with an average yield of less than 4t/hectare.  

In Region 2, the provinces of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya were the target areas. Peripheral listeners from neighboring provinces covered by the carrier radio stations were also considered. 

Accordingly, in order to reach out to a greater number of rice farmers, radio was used as a media platform. The program was aired weekly over DWQP in Cabarroguis, Quirino; DWSI Sonshine Radio in Santiago City; DWRV Radio Veritas in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, DZDA Pangkaunlaran in  Tuguegarao City, DWPE Radyo Pilipinas on May 13 to October 15, 2021 and May 26 to September 29, 2022 respectively. Moreover, since we are now in the digital stage, it was also livestreamed through Facebook page of ATI and DA-RFO 2. 

During the first year of implementation, a total of 2, 787 smart rice farmers graduated with a target of 2,500 during the culminating activity held in the different municipalities of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya provinces on November 22-26, 2021 following the protocol of COVID 19 pandemic. 

In the second year of implementation, the region targeted 2,000 enrollees with graduates of 2,184 smart rice farmers which exceeded the target number of farmers for two consecutive years.  This was realized with the strong collaboration of the different partner agencies in close coordination with the PLGUs and MLGUs of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.  As the DA’s capacity builder, knowledge bank and catalyst of the extension system, the ATI-RTC 2 took the lead in the implementation.  The center also partnered with local and community radio stations in the region.

Learner’s focus areas of learning

Making farmers smarter in rice production, different learning modules were developed and tackled in the 20-episode program. Experts from DA-RFO 2 and research experiment stations, PhilRice, DOST-PAGASA, PCIC, NFA and ATI served as the resource persons. Learning contents discussed to them were rice industry situationer (Rice Tarrification Law), climate change, climate-smart technologies highlighting crop insurance program, smart rice farming and smart rice crop diversification and importance of weather advisories, PalayCheck System, ICT applications for rice production, and special topics on marketing and trading including production loan program.

On the other hand, the second year of implementation was focused on nutrient management, pest management and water management to address the current problem being faced by the farmers with the experts from DA-RFO 02, DA-RCPC, PhilRice, PCIC, DOST-PAGASA and ATI.

To assess the knowledge gain of farmers, they met other requirements such us enrolment forms, baseline survey, pre- and post-examinations, quizzes, long and final examinations. 

SOA’s impact to farmers

“Mayat nga suruten tayu iti naadal tayu dituy SOA-SRA. Kayat ku nga ikkan iti meaning daytoy makuna nga SMART.  Ti umuna, S-sustainable, daytoy nga naadal tayu ket makatulung tapnu agbalin nga sustainable iti panag-talun tayu. Iti next, M-manageable, kailangan tayu nga mamanage iti oras tayu iti farm tayu kasta met lang iti panagadal tayu iti SOA-SRA. Iti A-attainable, apay? Nalaka tayu lang nga ma-attain detuy it-ited nga programa iti gobyerno nu datayu ket nagaget, nasaririt ken haan tayu pay nga nasadut. Ket nu intayu nga arakupen detuy nga programa ket agbalin tayu nga smarte ken nasayaat nga farmer. Letter R-resilient, nu mayat iti apit tayu ket mayat para iti pamilya, barangay, municipal, probinsya ken the whole Philippines will become resilient in rice production. Ken iti last, T-time frame, amin nga banag nga aramiden tayu ket ikkan tayu iti time frame kasta met ti panagpagay tayu manipud iti seed selection inggana post-harvest tapnu maala iti kuskustu nga maapit mu,” said Ms. Valeriana Saludares, one of the participants from Nagtipunan, Quirino. [It is important for us to use what we have learned in SOA-SRA. I just want to give meaning with the word SMART. First, S-sustainable, what we learned is very useful for our rice farming to become sustainable. Next is M-manageable, we need to manage our time in our farm like what we learned in SOA-SRA. A is attainable, why? We can easily attain the programs offered by the government if we develop industry in us. If we embrace this program, we will become smart farmers. Letter R-resilient, if we can increase our yield, a lot will be benefited like our family, communities, the whole Philippines will become resilient in rice production. And the last, T-timeframe, in everything that we do, we need to put a timeframe especially in our rice farming from seed selection until post-harvest in order for us to achieve a higher yield.]

“Adu iti naadal ku dituy SOA tayu, nangruna iti panagpili ti bin-i tapnu umado ti apit ken dagiti teknolohiya ti panagtalun. Daytoy six months nga innak pinagding-dinggeg ti school-on-the air, inyapply ku ti taltalun mi ken bangkag mi. Ket adda met ti immaduan ti apit. Isu nga agyamyamanak apu ta adda inted yu nga kastuy nga programa. [I learned a lot of things from this SOA, especially on selecting good seeds to increase our yield and the different rice farming technologies. I applied on my rice field the lessons I learned from the six months of listening the SOA. And there was an increase on my yield],” said Erlinda Verzosa of Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya.

As the program is already on its third year of implementation, it sustainably deliver relevant and timely information, knowledge and technologies that will help farmers to improve their farming systems to achieve sustainable and progressive agriculture industry.

It is projected that outcome of the program is the widespread awareness and understanding of modern, climate-smart rice agriculture technologies, increasing the productivity and income of rice farmers and help them achieve “Masaganang Agrikultura, Maunlad na Ekonomiya” as envisioned by the DA under the leadership of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., signifies that a productive agri-fishery sector is a key foundation of a vibrant competitive economy. This SOA still remain as a tool to amplify the knowledge and technologies that farmers need, and ensure that there is no more dead air between the government’s programs and our farmers.

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