Pangilinan: ‘The future is digital in farming’

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Senator Francis Pangilinan during the virtual TGP 2020 Summit.

Senator Francis Pangilinan calls for the promotion of the use of digital technology to help the plight of farmers and fishers during ATI CALABARZON's virtual TGP 2020 Summit.

TRECE MARTIRES, Cavite—As the global pandemic still “rages on,” Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan underscores his support to the promotion of digital technology among Filipino farmers and fishers.

In his keynote speech during the virtual Techno Gabay Program (TGP) 2020 Summit of the Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center (ATI-RTC) in CALABARZON, Pangilinan stressed that various technologies already exist that can be used to lower the risks or losses of farmers and, thus, help them earn more.

“At the height of the lockdown, the food supply chain was disrupted and some farmers were forced to dispose their harvests because of the travel restrictions, checkpoints, and lower demand for their produce. Technology has been crucial in reconnecting the broken food supply chain. In many parts of the country, farmers in rural areas have been linked directly to consumers in the urban centers,” he said in a recorded message.

Likewise, Pangilinan shared that digital technology made it possible for national government agencies and local government units to purchase farm produce and other agricultural products directly from farmers and fishers, a process supported by the “Sagip Saka” Act which he authored. These products were distributed as part of relief packs for many families during the enhanced community quarantine.

“This means that the future is digital even in farming. The challenge is to bring these technologies to our farmers and fisherfolk. This is where the ATI comes in,” the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization said.

With the theme “Digital Agriculture: Key Player to Food Security and Sustainability”, the virtual event was held to enhance the knowledge of staff from the Farmers’ Information and Technology Services (FITS) Centers, FITS Kiosks, and Magsasaka Siyentistas (MSes) in the region on the latest in information and communications technology (ICT) towards achieving food security and productivity.

The summit featured a panel of speakers to talk about the use of social media and electronic commerce, or e-commerce, to strengthen the promotion and utilization of digital technology as applied to agriculture.

Speakers for the “Power of Social Media in Agriculture” were YouTube vloggers Reden Mark Costales for “The Agrillenial”; Justin Paolo Interno for “Bards Interno”; and Princess Anne Marcos for “Millennial Bukid Girl”. Meanwhile, Gloria Morris of MoCA Family Farm and RLearning Center, Inc. and Iloisa Ramaraog of Session Groceries talked about some trends and challenges in e-commerce.

“The pandemic definitely hastened the rise of the e-commerce industry which we thought would happen in another five years or so. Now, people have realized that it is more convenient to go online. This is also our opportunity to support local products and to show that Filipinos can serve their fellow Filipinos,” Rumaraog said.

Information Services Division chief Antonieta Arceo also discussed the Institute’s programs that utilize digital technology in extension, especially amid the re-emerging interest in agriculture. These include e-Learning, webinars, Farmers’ Contact Center, Rice Crop Manager (RCM), and the Digital Farmers’ Program.

“Now that we see aging farmers, what would the future be for agriculture if nobody among our youth would go into farming? That is why among our advocacies at the ATI is to encourage the youth to embrace agriculture and to become agripreneurs. The only way is for them to see agriculture as a business and that there is ICT that can cater to their interests,” she said.

Meanwhile, partner agencies from all five provinces in the region presented the year’s accomplishments under the program, which include the FITS Centers’ and MSes’ response during the community lockdowns. The presenters came from Cavite State University, Laguna State Polytechnic University, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of Batangas, University of Rizal System, and Southern Luzon State University.

Regional TGP coordinator and chief of ATI CALABARZON’s Information Services Section Rolando Maningas also shared the highlights of the regional implementation of the program for the year. These include the establishment of new FITS Centers and FITS Kiosks, enhancement of FITS Centers, appointment of new MSes, and capability development activities such as training and webinar series on urban agriculture, school-on-the-air, and online mentoring.

In her video message, ATI CALABARZON Center Director Marites Piamonte Cosico looked forward to the full recovery of the agriculture sector from the challenges brought by the pandemic as well as the consecutive natural disasters “that threatened food security and sustainability in the country.”

“This 2020, many doors may have closed but we still try to open new opportunities for our farmers who continue to strive so that we still have something to eat everyday,” she said.

"Agripreneur" host and journalist Jiggy Manicad also delivered an inspirational message via recorded video where he urged farmers and fishers to remain hopeful despite the pandemic.

“The beginning of what I believe is a ‘farm revolution’ in the Philippines is still to come. We are the ones who will make this happen through technology and massive information awareness,” he said.

“The TGP is a big help because, through this, we can learn about sustainability and the correct ways [in farming] even though we are physically separated because of the pandemic,” Manicad added.

The summit gave way to recognize the accomplishments of the FITS Centers in terms of weather and climate advisory, RCM services, and social media presence. Winners of the poster-making, photo essay, and vlogging contests were also awarded.

ATI CALABARZON’s TGP 2020 Summit was streamed over Facebook on December 1-3.

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.