agricultural extension

Behind the glamour of Travels and Trainings

 My cousins and friends always tell me that I am very lucky because I get to travel a lot due to my job. I am an agricultural extension worker employed at the Agricultural Training Institute whose main job function is to deliver agricultural extension services to our clients. By clients, it covers all stakeholders in agriculture. It may seem glamorous to those who are confined at their office day in and day out. But it is not as glamorous as it seems.

It's what we do

Sir Jim: Give example of a topic for your blog...

We: Extension...

Sir Jim: Extension of what?

We: It's what we do...

Funny but this happened during our training on blogging and photography with our resource person Mr. Jaime Ramon 'Jim' Paredes of Apo Hiking Society. We were used to having resource persons who are familiar with what we do that we just assumed the rest would also know, which include Sir Jim.

Nonetheless, let me tell many others who don't know who we are and what we are.

Bye Bye Tears

“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.

That Unknown Quantity, PDAF

The Department of Agriculture has been repeatedly pinpointed as a knowing or unknowing accomplice in questionable practices involving public funds.

Last in the rather long line of implications is its involvement in channeling Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fictitious non-government organizations (NGOs) or clients. Public disgust is to be expected, considering the abject state of our rural men and women.
 
At least at ATI, this unfolding of events should be subject to careful self-check.
 

For the Agricultural Extension Workers in our midst

The untiring, grassroots-level, practical service of agricultural extension workers (AEWS) to farmers elicits respect and awe. Their raw desire to service, matter-of-fact acceptance of political realities around them, and relentless search for new ways to help the farmers in their charge… these give me many reasons to look inwards and wish that I could do better.
 
And somehow, queries from AEWs also tell me that ATI’s services matter to them.
 

ATI holds 2013 mid-year assessment and planning workshop in Leyte

 Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center 8 (ATI-RTC 8) hosted this year's mid-year assessment and planning workshop of the Institute. The activity was unique since it was the first time where all focal persons of the different programs (Rice, Organic Agriculture, High Value Crops, Rural Based Organization, Corn, and Knowledge Management) convened together to assess and plan, thus making the activity as first to have a large crowd.

 

The Other Side of the Fence

It is not too often that I find myself in the receiving end of ATI’s trainings.
 
There were trainings of course that I attended to learn skills or information I need to do tasks assigned or being assigned to me.
 
Last week’s training on enterprise skills development organized by ATI-Central Office sought to help ATI employees affected by the Rationalization Plan to put up their own agri-based sources of income in the event of the RatPlan actually being realized.
 

Making Trainings Tick

There is truth in the saying “there are no inappropriate participants, only inappropriate methodologies”. Training as a human resource intervention may be made light and pleasant. Participants in our training courses are adults and as such they have peculiar characteristics. They have a wealth of experiences, have sense of direction, autonomous, goal oriented, prefers learning for immediate application, and not controllable by traditional classroom rules and regulations.

Walking the Talk ... Weekend Organic Vegetable Gardening

Waking up to the scents of  different flowers in bloom, the buzz of the bees and butterflies frolicking from one bloom to another, the bounty that our ‘guapple’ tree gives and the cool October breeze makes you wish that the season never ends. 
 

Inquiring about the Trademarks of a Place

As part of my extension tasks and  functions, I often travel to various places. In these places I often tend to be observant and inquisitive. I ask people what the place is known for, how the place got  its name, the culture of the people, the delicacies in the area, the agricultural products, the lodging houses and hotels, the transportation and communication facilities, the peace and order and the political situation of the area. In essence, I am asking about  the trademarks of the place.

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