Planting Rice in the Time of COVID-19: RCEF FFS on Rice Production in Kalinga Yields 550 Farmer Graduates

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TABUK CITY, KALINGA. The Farmers Field Schools (FFS) on rice production for Kalinga launched on February 2020 under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) was finally concluded on July 2020 with 550 farmer graduates amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The graduates of this dry season FFS are from the municipality of Rizal with 100 graduates from four batches, and Tabuk City with 450 graduates from 18 batches.

Under the RCEF Extension Component, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) shall provide agriculture-related training scholarship grants to local rice farmers and farmworkers or their dependents in RCEF covered provinces. One of these is the modified FFS where TESDA, through accredited Farm Schools, in coordination with ATI and concerned LGUs, will train farmers on various rice production technologies.

In Kalinga, there are five TESDA-accredited farm schools as of the first semester of 2020 namely, Clemencia Integrated Rice-Based Farm, Bacayan Rice-Based Integrated Farm, Shavcer’s Farm, and Kub-ao Rice-Based Integrated Farm, in Tabuk City, and the Green Valley Farm in Rizal which hosted these FFS. Prior to becoming TESDA farm schools, the Clemencia Integrated Rice-Based Farm, Bacayan Rice-Based Integrated Farm, Shavcer’s Farm, and the Green Valley Farm are also ATI-certified learning sites for agriculture (LSA), while the Kub-ao Rice-Based Integrated Farm is an ATI-certified school for practical agriculture. TESDA-Kalinga gave each of the four farm schools four batches of FFS with 25 participants for each batch or 100 participants for each farm school except for the Clemencia Integrated Rice-Based Farm who was able to cater additional 2 FFS batches.

Despite the various COVID-19 related restrictions on crowd gathering and movement of people in Kalinga, the FFS continued through rescheduled and remedial classes and various strategies. Videos and printed materials on the FFS topics were also distributed beforehand for familiarization and advance reading. Other farm schools even provided transportation services to ferry participants to and from their area.

Some of the farm school owners shared their experience during the RCEF FFS. Honorio Clemencia, of the Clemencia Integrated Rice-Based Farm observed that “the participants prefer lectures simultaneous to actual demonstrations. Oftentimes, we use Ilocano during the discussions to simplify topics and facilitate easier understanding among the group.” Mr. Michael Lumas-i of the Bacayan Rice-Based Integrated Farm added that “the FFS gave farmers opportunities to learn and adapt new farming techniques such as using new farm machineries. It also facilitated the sharing of farming experiences among the participants. Through this, I observed that they were able to influence one another to achieve the FFS goals. Most importantly, the FFS is also an effective tool in strengthening community relations. Through these FFS, both the facilitators and the participants increased their capacity to listen to the opinion of others. Thus, through the FFS, farmers are given hope by increasing their self-confidence in farming.

Aside from LGU Agricultural Extension Workers, farm operators, and farmer leaders trained under the Training of Trainers on Inbred Rice Seed Production and Farm Mechanization last year were tapped as facilitators and resource persons for the RCEF FFS. Each batch had their designated trainer who closely facilitated their hands-on activities separately.

The FFS form part of the joint undertakings between the ATI-CAR, TESDA-Kalinga, PLGU Kalinga, and the LGUs of Tabuk City and Rizal under the RCEF Extension Component. Another set of FFS will be implemented for the 2020 wet season cropping with two additional farm schools namely, the Provincial Training Center-Kalinga in Tabuk City, and the Babalag Annayup Farm in Rizal. The Babalag Annayup Farm of Mr. Danilo Manuel is also one of the newest ATI-CAR certified LSA. (D. Esteban)

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.