THE Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Smart Communications Inc. joined forces to help more rice farmers increase their productivity and income by tapping a new technology called the Rice Crop Manager (RCM).
RCM is an information and communications technology (ICT)-based decision-support tool that provides site-specific crop and nutrient management recommendations.
Through a project titled “Evaluation of the Capability of Mobile Technology to Enhance the Benefits of Crop Manager through Short Messaging Service (SMS) Advisory Service for Farmers,” the trio of partners aims to extend and maximize the reach of RCM, especially its SMS component, to benefit farmers.
For its pilot run, 18 small-scale farmers from agricultural cooperatives in the barangays of Caut, Paludpud and La Purisima in Tarlac received mobile phones with preloaded SIM cards where they will receive text messages on RCM recommendations delivered through the DA’s Farmers’ Contact Center (FCC) operated and managed by ATI.
Edilberto de Luna, DA assistant secretary for Field Operations and national coordinator of the Rice and Corn Program, graced the activity and explained the potential gains that this decision-support tool will bring to the farmers.
“Agricultural extension used to be difficult in previous years but now, we can use the help of technology to deliver timely information to farmers. This is only the beginning as we hope to upscale this project using the experiences that we will gain from this experiment,” De Luna said.
The official added that farmers are the country’s hope in securing sufficient food for this generation and the next, yet they remain one of the poorest sectors.
“They are continually threatened by the climate crisis, stiff market competition and declining labor force, all the more reason for the Philippine government to intensify its initiatives in strengthening the sector’s capabilities against these challenges,” he said.
“There is a significant need to equip more Filipino farmers with understanding, necessary skills, tools and access to information so they could effectively cultivate their full potentials, thereby improve their livelihood,” De Luna said.
Meanwhile, Director Asterio Saliot talked about the ATI’s efforts to attract the youth to engage in agriculture through technology as part of its e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries. The program has three components: e-Learning, e-Farming and e-Trading.
Saliot said they looking forward to the success of the project and for its expansion to benefit farmers and for the inclusion of weather advisories in the ICT tool.
“In the face of aging Filipino farmers and our vulnerability to typhoons, the government, the private sector and other organizations are continuously forming partnerships to help uplift the lives of farmers and mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.
The RCM project was developed by IRRI for the Philippines and funded by the DA—through the Food Staples Sufficiency Program—as an ICT-based extension service that aims to contribute to the implementation of appropriate modern precision farming.
Alex Cancio, president of the Caut Farmers Field School Marketing Cooperative, thanked the DA, the ATI, IRRI and Smart for enabling them to access up-to-date information that can help increase their yield.
He also shared how the Nutrient Manager for Rice, the RCM’s older version, allowed him to harvest 9.1 tons per hectare when he first used the service in 2011.
The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement among the DA, IRRI and Smart capped off the mobile phone distribution activity at the La Paz Gymnasium on December 17, 2015.