The ATI Grind

Empty chairs
Silent hallways
Clean office desks

These are what would come to greet you should you be able to walk past the strict security at the Visayas State University's main gate and visit the ATI RTC 8 office. From the usual office conundrum of whirring printers and glaring laptop and desktop monitors, the silence is something for the books. You can now hear the birds chirp!

All these belie the true nature of what ATI is actually doing.

Save for the few who live nearby and part of the skeletal workforce, most staff are on work-from-home mode. The new normal they say. Some people outside of the DA and ATI network, in one way or another, have commented that working from home is a sort of vacation. That we have less work for the same salary is a far cry from what is actually happening.

What each staff of ATI has now is a full plate of routinely and reprogrammed responsibilities. Add to that the semblance of normalcy we have to create at home for our families. The Department of Agriculture and its attached agencies have gone full throttle in implementing different programs that would ensure each Filipino family has something to eat during and after the Co-Vid 19 pandemic.

Among the programs being implemented by the government is the PLANT PLANT PLANT Program which seeks to benefit farmers, fishers, and consumers. Embedded in the program is to revitalize urban agriculture and the Gulayan project. With this, each Filipino family is encouraged to establish its own home garden. Free seeds and information on fast-growing vegetables and agricultural technologies shall be made accessible to all.

Work has never been more cut out for the Information Services of the ATI network. As training and other activities have been postponed indefinitely, other modalities have to be utilized to make sure agriculture extension services are still delivered. For now, the need for information to be packaged in a certain way for a variety of platforms is testing the creativity of RTCs and the IS. Moreover, if DA wants to get a family to do gardening, there has to be something that can get everyone’s interest. Challenges like internet connectivity, limited mobility due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), and the constantly changing targets can drive staff on the edge.

How is ATI faring so far?

More than a month into the ECQ, the webpages and social media sites of the ATI network have never been more up-to-date. Inboxes are getting more queries than usual. It seems that just like the CoVid-19 virus, the information presentation and its usage is fast evolving. Rightly so, as having the right information at one’s fingertips will make him more equipped to handle the health and economic risks brought by CoVid-19 and the ECQ.

The Central Office and RTCs have come up with different strategies in presenting information and getting clients on board.
The Central Office and RTCs are sharing materials across the network.
The Central Office and RTCs have become more attuned to its weaknesses and strengths.

Amazingly, all the hard work has resulted in people ASKING. They are showing interest. It could well be because they have more time in their hands. However, I want to believe that the efforts of each RTC are being rewarded with more people getting interested in agriculture. Clients could easily choose other things over ATI online seminars, poetry, or photography contests. Yet here they are, asking about free seeds, potting media, and bio-concoctions.

This is how it should be. Information’s role in development is more pronounced than ever today. ATI knows that all too well. Hence, the ATI grind is about meeting clients’ needs with content that is true, timely, practical, and readily accessible.

This is a difficult time.
This is a challenging time.
This is one of the worst times in history.
Be that as it may, this is also the best time for ATI to level up for agriculture to take center stage.

ATI Today

Extension services continue to evolve. With the challenges that extension workers and farmers face, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) continues to explore various strategies to improve its efforts as the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture. In over 30 years, the ATI has celebrated various successes and learned from the lessons during hard times. Nonetheless, we are proud to be standing the test of time through the support of our partners and the clientele themselves. This is the ATI Today, more committed to bring you extension services beyond boundaries.