SEN. Cynthia Villar said 21 schools located all over the country had been identified to teach farmer-trainors farm mechanization and inbred seeds production.
“We cannot expect the farmer to mechanize or to learn how to produce inbred seeds without education and extension program, so we are identifying the schools where we can teach, train the trainors and the farmer field school where the trainors will teach so that we can reach the farmers,” Villar said in a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
The free training courses on rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, inbred seed production, farm mechanization, and farm machinery servicing and maintenance are covered by Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the “Rice Tariffication Law.”
Under RA 11203, the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will have a P1-billion allocation for skills training of farmers and knowledge and technology transfer through farm schools nationwide.
RCEF allocates P5 billion for the procurement of farm equipment by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech); P3 billion to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) for the inbred seeds program; P1 billion for cheap credit facility; and P1 billion for skills development.
This portion for skills training will be divided among training providers such as PhilMech (P100 million), PhilRice (P100 million), Agriculture Training Institute or ATI (P100 million), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or Tesda (P700 million).
PhilMech and PhilRice will provide ATI and Tesda with a training module and will conduct the training of trainor classes.
ATI and Tesda, meanwhile, will promote the same training modules among farmers via Farmers Field Schools and Tesda Accredited Farm Schools in identified rice-producing municipalities.
The skills training program will include courses that will enable farmers to operate and maintain farm equipment such as tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters and irrigation pumps.
The machinery will be used for land preparation, crop establishment, harvesting and threshing, drying, and milling.
The identified schools are: Don Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City; PhilRice, San Mateo, Isabela; PhilMech and PhilRice, Science City of Muñoz; Villar Sipag Farm School, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna; Villar Sipag Farm School, Bacoor, Cavite; PhilRice, Sta. Cruz, Mindoro Oriental; PhilMech, Pili, Camarines Sur; PhilRice, Ligao, Albay; Villar Sipag Farm School, San Miguel, Iloilo; PhilRice, Murcia, Negros Occidental; PhilMech, Abuyog, Leyte; University of Eastern Philippines, Catarman, Northern Samar; Western Mindanao State University for Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and the rest of the Zamboanga Peninsula; Central Mindanao University, Bukidnon; PhilMech, Cagayan de Oro City; PhilMech, Davao City; Villar Sipag Farm School, Davao City; Philmech, Midsayap, North Cotabato; and PhilRice, RT Romualdez, Agusan del Norte.
Villar clarified that despite the inclusion of four Villar Sipag Farm Schools in the list, the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance, a foundation run by the Villar Family, is not seeking accreditation from Tesda and would not be paid by public funds for the use of its facilities.
“We are offering the free use of our facilities to help reach more farmers as soon as possible,” Villar said.
Farmers from 54 provinces are expected to be trained in two to three months with two sessions of two-week training programs in a month, Villar said.