Monday, October 6, 2014

Forum features farmers' voices at IRRI

"I used to consider farming as a poor man's job because that was what everyone thought, so I wasn't confident when people would ask me what my occupation was," Florencio Madalipay said. "But, when I started building up more knowledge about farming, I grew confident so I could then proudly say, 'I am a Filipino farmer!'"

Madalipay was one of around 30 farmers who shared lessons and experiences from the Cyber-Village Project (CVP) Farmers’ Forum held on October 2 at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). CVP was launched by the Philippine Department of Agriculture and IRRI in 2008 to give farmers easy access to web-enabled crop and farm management tools, such as the Rice Crop Manager and the Rice Knowledge Bank.

“These tools can help speed up the delivery and dissemination of both knowledge and technologies,” said Julian Lapitan, IRRI’s head of partnerships. "We are all trying to improve productivity and yield. And, technologies undoubtedly have implications on achieving those," he explained. “The forum was a way for everyone not just to share experiences and assess impacts of the project, but also to ask for feedback and recommendations from farmers,” he added.

Jessie Delideli, a farmer from Dingle, Iloilo, intimated that he didn't expect to make something of himself. His life is a testament to the contrary. In addition to being a successful farmer, he is a farmer-technician in his locality. "Farming isn't all about brains, but also passion," he said. He enjoys sharing information with fellow farmers. "Sometimes, they would ask me about an insect or a pest problem. I would tell them to get me a sample so we could check it on the computer," he recalled. Delideli has recently joined the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) team in their area, for which he collects rice-related data from his fellow farmers.

A native of Batac, Ilocos Norte, Guillermo Quemquem said that at 52 years old, age is not a hindrance to learning new technologies and ICT tools. "As the leader in my barangay (the smallest local government unit in the Philippines), I first test the new technologies myself and, after I do, I involve my counselors, even the secretaries and the treasurer. I tell them they need to learn," he said.

Quemquem's barangay has its own eCenter. "After I taught (my colleagues), they also trained farmers at our eCenter so even farmers from outside our barangay learned and that's how using ICT has spread in our area." He cites that about 60% of neighboring farmers have been reached by CVP. He recommends scaling up the use of ICTs to the provincial level so that farmers are continuously updated with new farming technologies. Moreover, the municipalities covered by the CVP should now incorporate ICT in their municipal action programs, he said, so that more farmers will be able to leverage ICT toward more effective and responsible farming.

Quemquem and the rest of the farmers at the forum reported how better farming practices – using good quality seeds or seedings, fertilizer, water, pests and diseases, rats, and others – through access to better information improved their income and yield.

"I'm happy today… because I've been following news reports of rice since 2009 and most of these are negative," said Dr. Gelia Castillo, an eminent Filipino social scientist. "But, new tools alone won't ‘walk’ by themselves to farmers. Someone must introduce them, which the CVP did," she said.


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