YouTube and agriculture
YouTube is a powerful tool for agricultural extension. We believe this, as well as other information technology methods, should be used by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to improve farmers’ income.
What spurred me to this subject were two texts I received on my commentary, “There is money in worms,” which appeared last week. One was from Tony de Castro of Earthworm Sanctuary, whom I identified as a vermiculture information source.
“Been getting a lot of inquiries,” De Castro said.
Another was from an anonymous source: You have to show how big the required area should be.… Maybe you can improve your info in your next issue.”
Alex Escano, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, which works with Alyansa Agrikultura and Management Association of the Philippines Business and Countryside Development Foundation, advocates vermiculture.
“From the successful vermiculture projects that I help supervise, I believe many more farmers can benefit from knowledge of vermiculture,” Escano said.
This motivated me to look into how e-technologies, such as Internet search engines and YouTube, are being used to transfer vermiculture technology to farmers.
From YouTube, a search for “Vermiculture Philippines” yielded 31 entries, while “Vermicomposting Philippines” had 15. Questions such as the ideal size for vermiculture are answered here.
Almost all entries are from the private sector. Especially interesting is the contribution from LowCost Farming Philippines. It shows a simple way to undertake vermiculture.
A viewer posted this remark: “I thought it strange that no one I have met, apart from a failed attempt at the local high school, composts with worms.”
Though these entries are useful, it would be better if the DA could get the best inputs from the private sector entries, combine them with its own treasury of knowledge, and post its own comprehensive entry. It should also guide the reader on the next step where and how to get more information and training on this subject.
Three years ago, the DA launched an electronic system of extension. In a department order, DA designated Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) as the “lead agency for the provision of e-Extension services, in collaboration with various agencies, business and organizational units of the DA. This is to integrate and harmonize an ICT-based extension delivery system for agriculture and fisheries.”
However, ATI should also identify and integrate other technology inputs from the private sector, such as the ones on YouTube. This way, the ATI delivery system will be more complete.
The ATI website for this electronic initiative is www.e-extension.gov.ph; its e-mail is [email protected] In next year’s DA budget, Congress should significantly increase ATI’s allotment to support this effort. This will make agricultural extension more widespread and effective, especially with the use of web-based technologies such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
In this initiative, the private sector should be intensively harnessed. The local government units (LGUs), which have taken over agricultural development from the DA because of the Local Government Code, should apply electronic technologies for the benefit of the 17,000 agricultural extension workers they now supervise.
There is a belief that the lackluster development in agriculture is due to the LGUs. Most extension workers are said to have been left by the wayside because most local officials tend to focus on their political, rather than their agricultural, agenda.
This can be minimized if Congress gives ATI a larger budget. Electronic technologies can be used as a delivery mechanism for transferring technology to farmers. It can also be designed as a monitoring and self-policing system to ensure that the extension workers are really working on agricultural development. The most noteworthy activities can then be posted on sites like YouTube for others to benefit from.
The DA should undertake a comprehensive project, with the help of technology experts, to improve the effectiveness of agricultural extension. ATI can then become a one-stop IT integrating system to bring us in step with the modern age. This will significantly help farmers and fishers improve their incomes amid rapid globalization.
(The author is chairman of Agriwatch, former secretary for presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary for agriculture, and trade and industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112.)
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