Friday, February 23, 2018
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Technology transfer, agriculture development and cacao

One of the six key recommendations chosen from 50 submitted by the Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) to the government for urgent action is technology transfer. Simply put, without effective technology transfer, we will not have true agriculture development. Let us learn from our own cacao experience.

On Aug. 1, the Region 3 Kakao Konek Congress keynoted by Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and attended by 1,500 farmer-participants, showed how this happened. The Congress was organized by the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF) chaired by Manuel Pangilinan and headed by Benigno Ricafort, the Alyansa Agrikultura  and the Department of Agriculture Region 3.

Piñol gave an overview of the DA Plan for the next six years, Undersecretary for high value crops Evelyn Laviña and Undersecretary for special concerns Bai Ranibai Delangalen gave the details.

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Also, leaders from Davao shared their specific insights on how technology transfer made previously poor farmers better off. This enabled Davao to capture 80 percent of the domestic cacao market.

They were Valente Turtur (09173778756), co-chair of Cacao Industry Council, Dante Muyco Jr., president of Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao Inc. (Cidami) and May Lynn Lee, chief operating officer of Kennemer Foods International.

Three roadmaps produced by the DA, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the private sector were harmonized into one national cacao roadmap and presented by DTI Director Edwin Banquerigo, national cacao coordinator.

Throughout the conference, the importance of technology transfer was emphasized as a key factor in determining success or failure.

Present situation

Piñol has acted on the AFA recommendation that the DA directly guide the more than 20,000 agriculture extension workers devolved to the local government units (LGU).

In a Los Baños meeting on July 6, an Alyansa leader said many municipal agriculture extension workers were being diverted from their agriculture mandate to do non-agriculture functions. Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno agreed. At that point, Piñol and Sueno agreed that the DA would be given the responsibility of guiding the LGU agriculture extension workers.

But this is not enough. The transfer should carefully identify the correct technologies. This is critical because of massive agriculture imports from a free-trade regime and climate change.

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On July 30, AFA approved a position submitted by the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP). It proposes a significant DA organizational change. A DA official with the rank of at least assistant secretary should be appointed immediately. The official would focus on technology transfer.

This is a big job. First, this official must have the most astute political skills so that the mayors will permit their extension workers to stop non-agriculture work and do only agriculture. Second, he or she must help determine and promote the best technologies for specific agriculture and fisheries products. This means coordinating with state universities and colleges, local and foreign research institutions, and several DA organizations involved in research and development.

Two daunting factors must be confronted. One is the severe competition our agriculture is facing from imported agriculture products in a free-trade regime. The other is climate change. This is where the best technologies must be decided jointly with the scientists and farmers, given the unique situations they face.

Learning from cacao

During the Cacao Conference, Turtur said closer coordination between the Mindanao State University (MSU) and the LGU extension workers was initiated. This has not been done before.

Also, he arranged for international experts to study and recommend  the best cacao technologies. These technologies were put in a Cacao-Check manual. Extension workers from both the government and the private sector were then trained in a five-day live-in Cidami cacao seminar. Successful graduates were registered as “cacao doctors.” They would transfer these technologies to other cacao farmers.

At the cacao conference, CAMP president Ben Peczon submitted the AFA recommendation that the technology transfer seen in cacao would rarely happen in other areas of the Philippines unless a high DA official focuses only on this issue.

Unless we do technology transfer effectively, agriculture development will continue to avoid us, especially in a challenging environment of free trade and climate change.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email agriwatch_phil@yahoo.com or telefax (02) 8522112).

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