“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” This is a famous quote of one of my favorite authors, Charles Dickens. Yes. I am not ashamed to cry. My work in agricultural extension has driven me to tears for a lot more times than I can count. As always, it was tears of frustration. Who would not be frustrated?
I’ve been in agricultural extension for 20 years. It was not a work for the faint-hearted. Among our main clients are farmers who have deeply entrenched beliefs, values and practices. Many of them are too jaded to accept whatever we say at face value. The first time I lectured about a certain technology, my youth became a liability. I was “roasted”, mind you. They knew I lack the experience and I was an easy bait. This went on for years until I’ve wised up and began applying the technologies in my own farm.
Another thorn in an extensionist’ life are businessmen who thwart our efforts in every turn when their interests clash with our programs. The trainings that we conduct under the shade of a big mango tree is a far cry from the beautiful hotels and the extravagant giveaways of private companies. This I experienced when we zealously campaigned against chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Also when we rallied for fallow period and synchronized farming, seed growers countered with a different tact such as “Who will provide for our needs at the time when we are on fallow period? YOU?” Or businessmen owning agricultural supplies going directly to politicians to rally for them.
But then, there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Lately my frustrations are slowly ebbing away. Our work is slowly getting the recognition by our leaders. We now have a bigger budget for trainings and other extension activities. We can now afford to implement innovative programs which are not “piece-meal”. We just don’t train and say bye. We now give post training support to the deserving. We have now innovative programs such as farm-tourism, farm business schools, learning sites, schools for practical agriculture and many are still in the pipeline. It is safe to say that we have now connected with our clients. Funding for monitoring and evaluation made us know what we have done wrong and what we have done right. We are slowly making a mark. Farmers are now trusting us to help them in their agriculture endeavors. For us extensionists, being listened to and trusted is the ultimate high. Presently, we are now documenting successful farmers whom we have assisted.
Along with the recognition is the opening of opportunities for growth that are now available to many of us. Opportunities allowed us to participate in local and international trainings. We also get to be trained in wonderful venues where we get to commune with nature and look at it in a new light. This is what I have experienced when I went to Coron, Palawan for a training. The venue is superb and not only that, we had a super duper wonderful resource speaker in the person of Mr. Jim Paredes of the famous Apo Hiking Society. It is refreshing to see the otherside of the famous singer. Like me, he is a blogger. But unlike me, his blogs are widely read, a feat I am hoping to reach, even a fraction of.
The perks of having better accommodations during trainings- both local and international and meeting various personalities who matter has renewed my enthusiasm at work. It’s like I was injected with a wonder drug that revives my love for agriculture. Bye bye tears of frustration. I now proudly cry with tears of joy.