With quarantine and social distancing protocols in place, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) is now offering distance learning platforms as it continues its training programs for rice farmers under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
As radio remains to be a useful tool in reaching farmers on a large scale, ATI Regional Training Centers (RTCs) will launch School-on-the-Air (SOA) programs nationwide for target beneficiaries of RCEF. These programs will offer a learning package through a series of lessons on rice production and other related technologies across the country, in partnership with local radio stations.
This effort will also enable interactive learning and training for farmers nationwide, while limiting the risk of exposure to mass gatherings, and can serve as alternative to face-to-face training activities traditionally done prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apart from the on-air modules, the ATI RTCs will also have radio programs to discuss services and updates on RCEF. Likewise, information and communications technology will be used to make learning more accessible and possible for the clientele at any given time.
Starting June 23 to August 27, ATI Ilocos Region is set to air its SOA program with the theme “Sa RCEF, ATIng Ani at Kita ay Tsek na Tsek”. This initiative aims to cater to 300 enrollees in the region and will air at 5:00-6:30am every Tuesday and Thursday, over DZRD Sonshine Radio 981 kHz Dagupan. It can also be watched live on Facebook via @DZRD981 and @ATIIlocosRegion.
ATI Eastern Visayas’ radio broadcast will start airing on July 15 at 103.9 Radyo Natin Naval, from Wednesday to Friday, at 10:30-11:00am. This will cover the provinces of Biliran and Leyte.
In SOCCSKSARGEN, ATI will be heard across North Cotabato from July-November on DXND Radyo Bida 747 Kidapawan City and from one local radio in Midsayap every Wednesday, 10:00-11:00am.
In Cagayan Valley, the SOA for rice farmers will air across Cagayan and Isabela provinces from August to October at DWPE Radyo Pilipinas, DZDA Radyo Pangkaunlaran FM, DWRL Lal-lo, and DZND Radyo Kalugaran.
Meanwhile, ATI CALABARZON’s SOA program will air over DZAS 702 from September to October, Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 11:00-11:30am. ATI MIMAROPA, on the other hand, aims for 500 enrollees when they go on air via 96.9 FM Radyo Natin Calapan from September to November.
SOA programs in Western Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Caraga are set to hit the radio waves later in July; Central Luzon, Bicol, and Cordillera Administrative Region in August; and Central Visayas and Davao Region in October.
“SOA has been proven to be a very good medium to deliver information. However, with the limited mobility of the staff, the RTCs are looking at different challenges,” ATI Eastern Visayas Information Services Section Officer-in-Charge Melinda Petalcorin said.
"We are now adopting different alternatives in implementing SOA to make sure that safety is not compromised, the quality of service is not diminished, and that we still get to be creative in the process. By recording the episodes and even using the online platform, I think it’s still a win for both the implementers and the participants," she added.
RCEF was created through the Rice Tariffication Law which aims to improve the productivity and income of rice farmers amid the liberalization in rice trade. It has four components: seeds, mechanization, credit assistance, and extension services.
In 2019, information caravans were simultaneously rolled out across the country to familiarize farmers on the provisions of RCEF. As part of the Rice Extension Services Program, a total of 99 training activities were held for farmers and farm workers, agricultural extension workers, rice program coordinators, as well as members of cooperatives and associations. (With reports from Erika Vizcarra and Jayvee Masilang)