Oops we did it again (just in time too for 1st en masse graduation of PalayCheck farmers)

Something that other regions would surely not envy, typhoon-prone Bicol Region once again weathers a severely wet (read: rain, lots of it) environment.

It started a week ago with mild-to-heavy downpour gradually building up as low-pressure areas were spotted over some parts of the country. I took outside and let stand under the rain a six-inch wide, three-inch deep plastic container, and in about an hour it was filled with rainwater. That’s how heavy the downpour was the lasted for five days. We thought it was the time-honored Agua de Mayo passing us by. By Friday evening (May 1 – thankfully, it was a holiday), however, news came up that typhoon signal number one had been raised over Bicol as tropical depression Dante developed. By Saturday there was no let up. Instead, wind surge escalated very noticeably.

Mercifully, by Sunday, the heavy downpour ceased. A trip to Guinobatan revealed several landslides along hilly parts of the highway. There was blackout in the area as three electric posts were down and damaged, and were being repaired (hurray, I saw repairmen working on the posts early in the morning, and it was a Sunday...).

A team from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) left Los Baños, Laguna for Albay to attend the province’s en masse graduation for its first group of PalayCheck Farmer Field School (PFFS) graduates – the first in the region, in fact. At five o’clock in the afternoon they were in Nabua, Camarines Sur but unable to proceed further because of the heavy flood. They turned back to Pili to take the alternate route via the Partido area and exit through Tiwi, Albay. About an hour into this route, they were again unable to proceed, this time due to landslides. They had to pass the night in Pili, Camarines Sur instead of the ATI dorm in Guinobatan as planned.

(One would wish travel advisory services are issued by the local governments to the mass media and signage displayed along the highway, to inform travelers about how passable …or impassable… the roads are.)

Closely related to this, the ever-reliable EdSan prepared the voluminous certificates which should be personally signed by all three signatories (Secretary Yap, the Mayor and the Governor) for the PalayCheck PFFS Mass Graduation in Albay slated today, Monday, May 4, 2009. We hail the province’s Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs) under the supervision of Rice Sufficiency Officers of PhilRice as well as the Provincial Governments of Albay and Sorsogon (and ATI of course) for successfully holding the first batch of three-month PFFS. This ensues from the series of Training of PalayCheck Trainers conducted by ATI and PhilRice in November 2008 to January 2009.

A word about PalayCheck: Initiated by PhilRice, it is a dynamic rice crop management system that includes the use of quality seeds, land preparation, crop establishment, water, nutrient, pest, and harvest management activities to improve crop yield and production efficiency. The PFFS pivots around a participatory learning process that enables farmers to understand why a certain key check was achieved or not achieved. The goal is to effect improved crop management in the next season.

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.