DILIMAN, Quezon City—Thirty one agricultural extension workers (AEWs) in the Ilocos Region are taking on a new role in the food security efforts amid the pandemic by helping foster better understanding on modern biotechnology among farmers.
Through the virtual Regional Training of Trainers (TOT) on Strengthening the Capability of the Agricultural Extension System for Agricultural Biotechnology, two batches of AEWs and agriculture experts in the region learned more about the use of agricultural biotechnology. These participants are from local government units and state universities and colleges in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan.
The activity was held through the partnership of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP).
“This training supports the need to address our country’s problem on food sustainability and ensure that there is enough food to eat. This is also to help our efforts to enhance productivity and increase income [in farming],” Rogelio Evangelista, Center Director of ATI-Regional Training Center (RTC) I, stressed. Evangelista also challenged the participants to do their share in making sure that more farmers and extension workers experience the benefits of biotechnology.
The undertaking is part of a series of 16 TOT activities to be led by ATI-RTCs nationwide from July to September 2020. Topics covered in the training are on the application of modern biotechnology, issues and concerns about the field, regulations on biotechnology, and climate change mitigation efforts through modern biotechnology and organic agriculture.
BCP President Dr. Saturnina Halos and the former chief of DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry-Plant Quarantine Service Division Merlie Palacpac serve as the resource persons.
In his message during the opening program for both batches, BCP Executive Secretary Dr. Abraham Manalo underscored the organization’s aim to help national development through safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology. He shared that they strongly believe in the advantage of using modern biotechnology in the face of the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, ATI Partnerships and Accreditation Division chief Renato Dela Cruz thanked their counterparts in the DA and BCP for making the training possible, delivered virtually as part of the new normal. He then stressed the role of AEWs in helping farmers produce more food and cope with the effects of the current health crisis.
“Biotechnology is a very good mechanism to achieve food security in our country, with its four dimensions: availability, affordability, accessibility, and safety and nutrition. The challenge is how our AEWs can effectively transfer what they have learned from this training so that the farmers can benefit from the advantages of adopting biotechnology,” he said.
Dela Cruz, likewise, reminded the participants of the need to intensify the DA’s “Plant, Plant, Plant” Program and of the potential of biotechnology to support Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s New Thinking paradigm.
“We will count on the AEWs to transfer biotechnology to the farmers in a way that they can clearly understand what it is all about, because there is conflicting information about it,” he added.
The first and second TOTs were held via Zoom on July 30 and August 5, respectively. The next training will be held on August 12 for participants in Eastern Visayas. (with reports from Janelle Faye Tanudtanud and Patricia Rodriguez)