Witnessing One Good ICT Practice in FITS Banga K-Agrinet Center
By Gelly Maypa, Sally Villasis and Neniveh Ron, FITS Banga
and Niño Manaog, RAC Staff, WESVARRDEC
Since its establishment in 2005, the Farmers’ Information and Technology Services (FITS) Center in Banga, Aklan has been frequented by farmers and agriculture enthusiasts from Banga and the surrounding municipalities of Aklan. This required the Center to reach out to more farmers by using the fastest way with the minimum cost. After all, to provide quality and timely information and technology services to farmers is its mandate.
In order to serve the increasing number of clients, FITS Banga has maintained a one-hour daily radio program devoted to agriculture. This is the “Techno Pinoy Farm Watch.” Aired from 6 to 7 A.M. on Tuesdays and Thursdays over DYMT-FM, a community radio based at Aklan State University (ASU) in Banga, Aklan, “Techno Pinoy Farm Watch” features news and varied information on agriculture taken from different information sources.
BROADCASTING WITH BESSIE
Techno Pinoy Farm Watch Program Host Gelly Maypa interviews PCARRD TOPD Director Bessie Burgos who sheds light on the K-Agrinet program initiated by PCARRD. The program features live guests interview thereby registering listeners. The firsthand information on K-Agrinet’s endeavors where farmers can participate and from which they can benefit.
Since the involvement of K-Agrinet in radio programming, ICT interventions have been widely used in the procedures of radio programming, with the maximum use of facilities and equipment awarded through Knowledge Networking towards Enterprising Agricultural Communities (K-AgriNet), a Techno Gabay Program initiative authored by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD).
To prepare for the radio program, FITS Banga Manager Gelly Maypa invites scheduled resource speakers via cellular phone calls or short messaging service (SMS), the process made available through the K-Agrinet facilities and equipment.
She downloads bits of information on whatever topics set for the particular airing. Using the computer awarded by K-Agrinet to the FITS Center, she accesses the PCARRD website from which she downloads agri-news and updates.
She also draws information on agri-technology needed for her radio programming from a number of materials—including the monthly PCARRD Monitor sent to FITS Center respectively, PCARRD fact sheets and product catalogs, Agriculture,- a monthly magazine published by the Manila Bulletin, and the worldwide web, among others.
In order to have a smooth flow of the radio program, she instructs the radio technician to format through a radio-production software (OTS AV) the sequence of segments needed to be aired for the particular day. This radio software orders the items to be aired on that day.
During the actual programming, the computer that facilitates the sequence is backed up by an analog system, so that no information is lost just in case the computer bogs down. However, during power interruptions, the radio program is cut off because there is no alternative power source. In such cases, if the topics covered are not finished, the segment is repeated in the next programming.
Throughout the program, the computer operating the programming is connected online. This way, Internet access is ensured should the need arise for both the host and the listeners to interact.
Each program is recorded, played back and aired via the radio software. After which, the soft or digital files are archived for reference.
More importantly, the use of sophisticated software reduces the costs incurred in radio production, hastens the delivery of information and allows real-time contact between the listeners and the speakers.
Given the many possibilities in programming afforded by the sophisticated software technology, “Techno Pinoy Farm Watch” features varied programs to maximize the technology available. Among others, Natural Farming System (NFS) occupied the Banga community airwaves for some time. This opportunity came along through the initiative brought by the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) in the conduct of the Natural Farming Systems (NFS) Training.
The Natural Farming System (NFS) Training
Launched in September 2003, the Natural Farming System (NFS) Training funded by FITS Banga and LGU Banga benefited some 100 participants and encouraged some 40 individual farmer adaptors. This number represents the constituents in eight barangays in Banga alone. Even after the training launch, other farmer integrators surfaced from the surrounding municipalities reached by DYMT-FM’s signal.
ICT intervention proved indispensable to the program launch in a number of ways. Using the software provided in the computer, the FITS Banga staff prepared a video production on natural farming systems on crops and livestock. The use of K-Agrinet-awarded equipment significantly facilitated the presentations. Likewise the camera, cellphone and computer were employed to the maximum in preparing, facilitating and covering the entire training.
After the three-day orientation and a two-day participatory technology demonstration (PTD), the NFS Training was then followed-through via a monitoring scheme which required the radio program to monitor the progress of the participants every week. Participants were required to listen to specific time slots because the training scheme follows specific modules aired on particular episodes to guide the participants on natural farming practices. For example, in the four-month period devoted to NFS Training, a farmer participant would keep track by listening to the module on planting crops during the actual planting dates or season itself.
FITS Banga Manager Gelly Maypa performs before NFS Training participants the procedures in preparing indigenous microorganisms (IMO) concoctions during the NFS Training in 2007. These and other similar technological practices are well packaged by the FITS K-Agrinet Center made available to farmers anytime.
Sometimes, farmers’ inquiries and clarifications in the form of text messages about information and technologies being aired require instant responses and explanations from experts and resource persons. In many instances, the radio program hosts would answer and supply the information on-the-spot. They virtually source out these technologies and other similar information from the K-Agrinet database maintained in the FITS Center.
After having completed the four-month training, the NFS participants enjoy the privilege of follow-through, enhancing activities, eventually becoming regular clients of the FITS Center. Consequently, it requires the FITS Center to rely on K-Agrinet resources—human resource and equipment—to effectively respond to the needs and demands of the farmers.
During techno clinics, farmers get clarifications and pointers from the FITS Technology Service Specialist (TSS) on their queries in order to maximize the technology taught to them. Then, the FITS Information Service Specialist (ISS) assists by printing a hard copy of data and information needed by the farmer. All farmers served are noted and their activities in the Center documented by the FITS Center staff. The FITS Banga airs then these activities over the radio program to encourage them and other farmers to further avail themselves of their services.
To meet the rising demand of the increasing number of farmer clients, FITS Manager Gelly Maypa employed additional K-Agrinet personnel. She hired one TSS Coordinator whom she tasked to monitor the farmers’ progress following the training. She also hired one ISS Coordinator to back up the existing personnel in encoding the information in the K-Agrinet database used to render services to the farmer clients.
Consequently, the training and knowledge sharing initiated by FITS Banga has achieved prominence and popularity in the area. This has been indicated in the number of listeners respondents in the survey submitted by the mother consortium WESVARRDEC early 2007.
The NFS Training proved to be a successful endeavor mediated by the K-Agrinet mechanisms employed in FITS Banga. The FITS Center interacted with and facilitated for the encouraged radio listeners who substantially adopted the natural farming practice promoted over the program.
Such impact can be felt in the testimonies of four integrators NFS. Hector Inamarga, a regular radio listener from Barangay Tabayon adopted an integrated farming system consisting of 60 darag breeders, tilapia culture, piggery and fruit trees. Aware of the advantage in using interconnectivity, Nong Hector contacts and updates the FITS Center especially on his involvement as officer of the Darag Native Chicken Raisers Association in the whole province of Aklan.
Having heard of the FITS over the radio, Charlene Yecla eventually became a K-Agrinet client at the FITS Center, now granted a regular access to the Internet from which she sources and updates information to help her manage some 500 heads of broilers in her farm in Barangay Mambog. Charlene is also a registered subscriber of PCARRD SMS.
No less than the former vice-governor, Atty. Liberato Ibadlit of Aklan was also lured to the radio program as he later applied in his 50-breeder Badiangan piggery that is expected to yield 200 fattened heads. FITS Banga extends assistance to this private investor who has applied this natural farming technology in his 15-hectare fruit tree plantation. Also, former mariner Jennis Morales practices vermicomposting while raising some 800 chicken layers in his small farm in Barangay Pagsanghan.
Valuable data are made available because of the FITS Center’s maximum use of ICT facilities. Through the regular use of K-Agrinet ICT facilities, FITS Banga has made it a point to maintain contact and keep track of these satisfactory practices. In effect, useful data backing up NFS’s impact on the farmer integrators and cooperators are found at the K-Agrinet database and other materials produced in digital formats. This growing number of agriculture and technology materials makes the FITS Center simply fit to serve the equally growing need of the farmers in Banga and the neighboring places. To this, the indispensable radio program pans out to continuously broadcast to the farms the knowledge, information and technology needed in farming activities.
LOLO AT LANZONES
Making use of K-Agrinet database facilities in the FITS Center in Banga, Aklan, WESVARRDEC Regional Techno Gabay (RTG) Staff Nick Banquero assists farmer Emiliano Rentillo in accessing information on Longkong lanzones production.
From Listener to Resource Speaker
As part of its programming, “Techno Pinoy Farm Watch” updates farmers and listeners on FITS schedules and its other activities, a mechanism that supplies the farmers’ need for information on agriculture and related technologies. Utilizing modern means of communication—radio softwares, SMS, etc.—and Internet, the radio program brings information on agriculture closer to the farmers and agriculture enthusiasts.
Take the case of Rene Ingalla, a 45-year-old farmer who was a former listener of the radio program but is now a member of the pool of resource speakers who share their experience-based farming expertise. Nong Rene begins his day listening to “Farm Watch Techno Pinoy,” an agriculture-oriented radio program aired over DYMT-FM. He spends his day tending to his fruit trees and making organic fertilizers which he sells to his fellow farmers.
From his first visit to the FITS in 2004 up to the present, Nong Rene has not used synthetic fertilizers in his farms which are planted to rambutan, rice, banana and dalanghita in a one-hectare land in Barangay Sibalew, a hilly area some 16 kilometers from the Banga town proper. An advocate of natural farming system (NFS), Nong Rene has developed his know-how on NFS concoctions, or organic foliar fertilizers which are prepared using indigenous materials.
Determined to explore new possibilities based on what he learns, Nong Rene innovates the use of fertilizers and tries out different variations of indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) by applying knowledge he has gained after long years of being a full-time farmer. In fact, Nong Rene experimented and developed the Sampaliya [wild ampalaya breed] concoction, which is now considered an herbal medicine proven best for diabetics and women with myoma, among others.
As barangay kagawad, Nong Rene also makes use of his access to people in sharing his knowledge. Such political privilege gives him more access and advantage to reach out to more farmers. Because of the popularity gained among his folks and fellow farmers whom he has been helping through knowledge sharing, he realized the need to have a cellphone through which he can further share with others the technology he learned. For a number of times since 2005, he has been participating and leading the discussions about his practice in growing calamansi over the radio and in most farmers’ gatherings in Aklan.
Testimonials by farmers and listeners made through letters, phone calls and text messages, including those from the constituents in Banga attest that they were convinced of and therefore adopted the natural farming practices because these have produced good results. In one way or another, others have expressed gratitude after they have been helped by the information provided via the program.
All information provided in the preceding report can be accessed and double checked through a variety of sources of objectively verifiable indicators (OVI) including a Record of Distributed IEC Materials, Record of Available IECs and K-Agrinet Banga Visitors’ Logbooks. They can also be made available through the K-Agrinet laptop entrusted to the FITS Banga Manager and the computer Files and tapes of “Techno Pinoy Farm Watch” records. All other information can also be accessed through the three K-Agrinet desktop computers maintained in the FITS Center in Banga, Aklan
Attesting further on how the ICT mechanism has worked well between and among its stakeholders, Nong Rene’s story is one among the many stories that prove the effectiveness of the mechanism. Their stories are documented in the FITS Banga 2005 Annual Narrative Report, the Programming Records Archives (tapes and computer files) and the WESVARRDEC Impact Assessment Form conducted by the consortium from October 2006–January 2007 sought to identify and quantify the impact of this intervention.
FITS Banga. 2006. 2005 Annual Narrative Report. Banga, Aklan.
FITS Banga. 2007. “Natural Farming System for Corn.” PowerPoint. Banga, Aklan.
WESVARRDEC. 2007. “The NFS and IFS Package of Technology.” Iloilo City.