CALATRAVA, Romblon—After more than a decade of assisting farmers and fishers in their municipality, the Farmers’ Information and Technology Services (FITS) Center of Calatrava, Romblon takes its services closer to the local communities by establishing barangay-level information kiosks.
However, Grace Ellen Culpa, the FITS Center’s information and technology services specialist, shared that accomplishing this feat was not without its challenges.
In 2018, Culpa started promoting the establishment of community versions of their FITS Center to the chairpersons of the seven barangays in the fifth class municipality. She would meet with each barangay chief and explain the purpose and advantages of this project.
“Some of the barangays here can be reached by motorboat and others are through land transportation. The main sources of livelihood are farming and fishing but these have deteriorated because of problems that have been existing for decades,” Culpa said in writing.
“Having this kind of place where anybody can come anytime, especially when they need new knowledge about agriculture, would be amazing. We can stop the agricultural gap through dissemination of new technologies that can help end poverty among most of our rural farmers,” she continued.
Due to funding issues, Culpa did not succeed in getting the commitment of the barangay leaders. Despite this, she continued to campaign for and promote the establishment of barangay-level information kiosks.
Her efforts paid off a year after, when three of the seven barangay leaders agreed to set up their own information kiosks even without fund support.
“It was worth the wait. For me, having barangay-level FITS centers despite being unfunded is already a big accomplishment,” she remarked.
In 2019, Barangays Linao, Poblacion, and Talisay officially set up their own information services for local farmers and fishers, in partnership with the Municipal Agriculture Office led by Noel Falcultila who also serves as the town’s FITS Manager.
The municipal government’s FITS Center provided the three barangays with agri-related information, education, and communication (IEC) materials from the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), which were given for free to the local farmers and fishers. Livestock medicine and vegetable seeds were also distributed as part of the services of these barangay FITS sites.
“Barangay Talisay chairperson Merlito Mantes said that the day they started their operations as barangay FITS center, more and more farmers came to visit to ask for IEC materials and left with a smile on their faces. Barangay Linao chairperson Johnny Mirabete was also thankful for the project because their farmers can save money from having to visit the agriculture office in town to ask for reading materials and some livestock medicine and vegetable seeds,” she said.
She added that Barangay Poblacion chairperson Socia Fetalvero has also shared positive feedback since their community FITS started.
In early 2021, the ATI offered fund support for the three barangay FITS sites. In June that year, these were officially launched in a virtual ceremony as “Barangay FITS Kiosks” with catalytic funding provided in the form of steel shelves, camera, television, tables, and chairs.
“Partnering with ATI is one-of-a-kind because their extension services for the grassroots are hands-on. It is a big opportunity for us to be among the beneficiaries of the ATI as Barangay FITS Kiosks,” Culpa said.
For Culpa, this new partnership with the ATI can help ensure the effectivity and sustainability of the project for the benefit of their rural communities.