BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Agriculture in the Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR) continues to encourage agricultural extension workers (AEW) to come up with innovative plans to effectively implement agricultural programs, particularly at the local government level.
On the 36th anniversary of the department’s Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) in the Cordillera, DA-CAR Regional Executive Director Cameron Odsey reiterated the need for such measures for national agricultural programs to complement the needs of the local government units (LGUs).
“It’s about time that the DA and the LGUs concretize their agricultural plans based not only on the downloaded programs of the DA central office but also the actual plans at the local government units. While LGUs implement programs given by the national government, it does not encourage innovations based on the needs, resources, and on what the LGUs should carry out,” Odsey said.
The ATI serves as the capacity builder, knowledge bank, and catalyst of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System.
“The ATI has long pushed the idea of innovation. While it is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for us to rethink that policies and guidelines are dictated at the national level. That is very logical, but for us located in far-flung areas, we have to go beyond what is available. We still find areas with pockets of poverty and subsistence farming, in which the crops family plants exclusively serve the needs of that family. This is the challenge among the AEWs,” the regional executive director stated.
ATI-CAR lists around 1,120 AEWs servicing around 300,000 farmers in the region. The AEWs are responsible for providing direct help to farmers through the dissemination of information on agricultural technologies, supporting adult learning in rural areas in the region, and assisting farmers in technical and farm management skills for program implementation.
DA-CAR institutionalized the Provincial Agricultural and Fisheries Extension Systems (PAFES) to bring extension services to the grassroots level amid the challenges of devolution, aside from strengthening collaboration between DA, local government units, academe, and the private sector.
With the DA acting as its co-planner, co-investor, co-implementor, and co-monitor of priority projects in the provinces that have started on commodity specializations to maximize the comparative advantage, PAFES acts as an extension hub that synchronizes agricultural plans and programs as well as orchestrates the activities of the various stakeholders.
Director Odsey pointed out that “Food security is the DA’s main goal. In addition to sharing all of these technologies from SUCs and the various divisions of the DA for this to be shared with the farmers for them to gain from, our challenges in the CAR are also opportunities to push our rural communities to develop in terms of agriculture. Technologies are now available like the use of greenhouses so that farmers can produce all year round and the use of irrigation technologies to reduce the use of water such as hydroponics.”.
The director added that the DA was able to quickly secure the backing of the provincial governments in all six of the CAR’s provinces and develop their initial plans. The DA-ATI central office has promised to provide P10 million to support the agricultural extension program, with an average of at least P1 million for each province.