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Extension key to agriculture success

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Extension key to agriculture success

Without effective extension, agriculture growth will continue to be dismal. Whereas industry has grown by an average of 7.1 percent over the last two years, agriculture has declined by 0.6 percent.

This was a contentious issue discussed on April 3 after the signing of a public-private sector memorandum of agreement between the Department of Agriculture and Go Negosyo. Harnessing Go Negosyo is a welcome development, for which Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and Go Negosyo head Joey Concepcion should be commended. Without the business aspects being considered, DA’s initiative for increasing farmer and fisherfolk incomes will not be attained.

However, there is a hitch. If farmers and fisherfolk are not equipped with effective production technologies, they will lose out to imported products which have those technologies. Imported products will flood our market, making our farmers even poorer because they have no product to sell anymore.

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With my doctorate on technology transfer, I can say that we have the needed technologies in our universities and research institutions, but not the needed transfer mechanisms. These technologies are used by our competitor countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Taiwan. But not by our own people!

Devolution

Under the Local Government Code, our 17,000 agricultural extension workers are devolved to the Local Government Units (LGUs). Unfortunately, too many of our LGU agricultural extension workers are not doing agriculture work, but are instead assigned other tasks by the LGU head.

In a meeting of the Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) before the 2016 presidential elections, six priorities were selected from 50 recommendations identified by AFA’s five coalitions. Though both are needed, it was decided that extension be given even higher priority than research. This is because too little of our research is known to our farmers and fisherfolk.

At an AFA meeting with Piñol last year, he suggested that AFA formulate a specific recommendation to address this glaring problem. AFA’s science and academe-based Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP), which covers universities and research institutions throughout the nation, accepted this challenge.

Last April 3, CAMP president Ben Peczon submitted a draft Executive Order on this issue for Piñol’s consideration. Formulated after eight meetings, and with the active involvement of DA’s Agriculture Training Institute (ATI)’s Director Luz Taposok, the EO calls for a “collaboration of provincial agriculture and fisheries extension system,” with specific attention to the “strengthening of extension in state universities.”

Extension system

The successful agriculture extension models of India, China and Japan were investigated. The EO incorporates the important characteristics of these models in the proposed “Provincial Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System.” This includes the LGUs, the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), the DA, rural-based organizations (farmers and fisherfolk), and business entities. It will have four functional components:

Location, with demonstration farms using the best technologies

Training, with massive training of LGU extension workers as well as farmers, fisherfolk, rural women and youth

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Advisory and technical extension services, with SUCs and business heavily involved

An annual plan and budget, with core staffing and an operating budget

Most importantly, the Pafes, will ensure the LGU-devolved extension workers will actually do extension work, instead of being distracted by non-agriculture task assigned by the LGU head.

A reservation is given by CAMP chair and former UP president Emil Javier: “The governor must give full support to the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist.” The extent of this support will determine the amount the governor will receive for the PAFES.

The Go Negosyo initiative (with its business knowledge and network) is necessary. But it is not sufficient. It has to be supplemented with AFA’s CAMP initiative (with its science and technology extension system). Only with effective extension can we achieve agriculture success.

The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for DA and DTI. Contact is e-mail agriwatch_phil@yahoo.com.

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