A new paradigm for agricultural extension | Inquirer Business
MAPping the Future

A new paradigm for agricultural extension

Many agricultural technicians deployed to help farmers have been educated in the halls of agriculture schools. Unfortunately, they have very little practical experience. This type of education continues to this day. And maybe, this is one of the reasons why agriculture courses have lost their appeal.

Faced with the challenge of poor agricultural productivity, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the Foundations for People Development (FPD) partnered to change this situation. This partnership is now known as Pinoy Agripreneurs Program.

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Over the past three years, I have worked closely with people at the ATI for a program for out-of-school youth who are high-school graduates. The program aims to train them to become agripreneurs. During the two-year program, they go through six semesters where each semester is divided into one month of in-school instruction and three months of on-the-job training (OJT).

During the OJT, students are assigned to live in the farm of a successful agripreneur, who mentors our students on his business. The students live and work in the farm full-time for three months. Thus after the program, each student would have been exposed to six different farms.

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By then, he should be able to make his own business plan on a project he will go into after graduation.

Graduates of this program are not expected to look for a job but rather create a job for themselves as agripreneurs.

Our realization is that the best teachers for agripreneurs are not the PhDs and master’s degree holders in the universities but the successful agripreneurs who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with budding agripreneurs.

Since the farm owner invests time to train these young students, the program pays for the students’ board and lodging. That is extra income for Mr. Agripreneur. The farm owner, in turn, gets free farm labor since this is part of the students’ sweat equity in the program. The program actually tries to show him that on top of growing crops and livestock in his farm, he can also “grow” visitors.

Today, there is a growing niche market in the tourism industry. This is called “agritourism.”

There are people willing to pay to stay in a farm and work for free since they want to experience farm and rural life.

Our cooperating farms in this program have been organized as a group called the Farms-Schools Network.

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This way, they can continuously receive OJT students and also groups of visitors. Some of these partners also organize their own short-term training programs for farmers and would-be farmers.

The ATI supports them by way of grants to improve their facilities, funding support for training programs, and marketing promotion as agritourism destinations.

Formally, they are recognized as private extension service providers of ATI.

ATI also launched a program called “Schools for Practical Agriculture” or “Sanayan ng Pagsaka at Adhikaing Agrikultura” (SPA).

Under this program, the farmer leaders are developed to become “teachers” and community extension workers. Their farm lots, on the other hand, become “schools” for hands-on training.

The curriculum is developed using the participatory approach and based on the needs of the learners.

Another initiative along this line is the Community Business Technology Centers (CBTCs) developed by the FPD. CBTCs function as techno-demo facilities where the training approach is “show and tell” by specialists.

CBTCs also accommodate OJT students and offer short-term training programs for would-be agripreneurs.

While the SPAs cater to the farmers of today, the CBTCs cater to the agripreneurs of tomorrow. Both use the educational strategy of learning by doing. Others call this “to see is to believe” or simply “show and teach.”

Those interested in the SPAs should contact the ATI or visit their website www.ati.da.gov.ph and those interested in the CBTCs may contact the FPD via www.fpdphils.org.

(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is vice chairman of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and Dean of the MFI Farm Business School. Feedback at [email protected] For previous articles, visit www.map.org.ph.)

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TAGS: agricultural extension, Agriculture, Education, Philippines
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