Raised in a farming family, Angeline took up an agricultural extension course at Benguet State University, hoping she could transfer knowledge to their own vegetable farm. A blend of both innovative and traditional methodologies improves farm outputs.
While the average age of farmers is 57, Angeline is only 35. She is also tech-savvy and understands the use of digital technologies in the food value chain. I am blessed that she is one of our farmers helping us in coffee production.
Why is digital agriculture (e-agriculture) important? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations refers to the mobility of digital technologies as they transform agriculture and food production.
“In the agriculture and food sector, the spread of mobile technologies, remote-sensing services and distributed computing are already improving smallholders’ access to information, inputs and markets — increasing production and productivity, streamlining supply chains and reducing operational costs,” it said.
E-agriculture strategies help rationalize financial and human resources and address information and communication technology (ICT) opportunities and challenges for the agricultural sector in a more efficient manner. While the digitalization of agriculture and the food value chain are still a far cry in the Philippines, I am taking baby steps in our own farming community. Our farmers are enthusiastic to acquire sustainable farming practices that improve productivity and do not rely on chemical fertilizers.
Simple steps start in providing them with access and tools for sharing. Second, breaking the language barrier is important. As a Cebuano, I neither speak fluent Tagalog or their Kankanaey dialect. Through digital technologies, I could transfer my theoretical knowledge through videos and slideshows. Hands-on field tutorial accompanies these presentations.
Knowledge transfer happens both ways because there is always something new that we learn from each other. Installation of a remote CCTV and videoconferences are impossible, as the mobile connection depends on the weather. Mobile data also becomes spotty as thick fog and heavy rains envelop the cloud forest.
For easy reference, I provided our farmers with a tablet for videos and slideshows. Facebook Messenger is the platform for sending multimedia messages on work progress. To ensure connectivity, I bought pocket Wi-Fi and data load. Though Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) and Globe Telecommunications Inc. are accessible in our community in Benguet, the former provides a wider data coverage. While the transition to move to the mountains is in my plans, I am hoping better internet would be available soon since private and government are bridging the digital divide.
To help raise productivity and marketability, the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) launched the Digital Farmers Program (DFP) in partnership with Smart last year. Small-scale farmers are taught how to use digital tools through courses like the use of smartphones, e-commerce and online payment systems.
“With uncertainties brought on by Covid-19 coronavirus disease 2019), we all have to adapt. The Digital Farmers Program is a training ground for the new style of doing things. It is digital and inclusive and geared toward the growth of the agriculture sector,” said Smart public sffairs group head Ramon Isberto.
DA-ATI and Smart recently concluded the DFP 101 Master Trainers’ Bootcamp, the first virtual interactive “Training for Trainors” workshop for DFP. The week-long course prepared DA-ATI personnel to organize their own online training activities.
Under DFP 101, the topics cover the basics of smartphone use, accessing the Internet,
Internet safety and security, agriculture apps, social media and social media marketing.
Advance classes include lessons on mobile agriculture and financial services such as third-party farming apps, mobile e-money, as well as micro-credit, entrepreneurship, smart farming and financial literacy. Using online payment is nonexistent as of this present time in our community. I couldn’t remit money to our Benguet farmers, so my husband and I have to commute ten hours away every month. They do social media marketing in localized Facebook pages or groups.
For the second half of 2020, 28 batches of the DFP 101 trainings will be rolled out starting August. This partnership is commendable, but the use of digital technologies must come together with better internet connection. Remember, no matter how promising and beneficial the digital technologies are, one critical factor to avail of it, is the financial means.