Farmers Field RDE Training Program (FFTP) approved by the Office of Research, Development and Extension Services (RDE) been created to enhance the awareness among 30 smallholder farmer-beneficiaries regarding factors affecting production, such as climate change, and how to prepare for the inevitable impact of these factors on their crops and livelihood sources. Among other benefits derived from FFTP are as follows: (1) Empowered farmers, the training reinforced the farmer-participants knowledge and power of observation of their crops and fields. Observation and analysis were applied by the farmers as an essential tool in farm decisions; (2)created opportunities for practice and diverse income sources, the package of production inputs and tools has eased the technology replication and adaptation process. The field replication further ensures smallholder farmers have healthy soils that retain moisture and compensate for erratic rainfall and unseasonal high temperatures. Likewise, the introduction of diverse farm livelihoods, veering away from mono-cropping practices, created other income sources aside from corn; and (3) provided sources of planting materials and other farm inputs. FFTP farmer-participants were able to derive from the project the planting materials for the next cropping cycle. The vegetable seed banks are a significant contribution to resilience building. Farmers shared that the natural environment-related shocks were lessened because of FFTP; and (4) Institutionalized farmers’ practices. The FFTP leads the way in realizing the farmer-participants in institutionalizing the sharing of knowledge and experience through the formation of a farmers’ association. The association will also be a vehicle for the group to access other government agencies' resources and services. The legalization of the Farmer Associations was lodged through registration with the Department of Labor and Employment.
Keywords: Farmers Field Training Program, climate change, extension services, smallholder farmers, sustainable livelihood
In the agriculture sector, the most vulnerable to climate-related disasters are the smallholder farmers. The climate-induced shocks have been affecting their lives and livelihoods by diminishing their meager assets and resources. In the past ten years, farmers in Panay have faced devastating phenomena like typhoons, flooding, periods of drought, disease infestation, and massive erosion of farmlands affecting farm productivity and food security.
In the ambit of the project's objectives of enhancing sustainable corn production in the northern part of Iloilo province, the Farming Field Training Program (FFTP) builds on the farmer-beneficiaries capacity in adapting technologies to improve farm productivity amidst climate change. Agriculture is multifaceted. Its growth and development are factors of the interrelation of the natural environment, biological, technical, economic, social, cultural, and political. Technology is expected to play a critical role in the adaptation and resilience-building of agriculture players.
Access to climate-resilient technologies has proven to improve farm production and productivity and the living conditions of farming households. Technology transfer is a complex and elaborate process. The effective technology transfer system to the project's beneficiaries requires a carefully thought-out plan, communicable ideas, and a cooperative effort. The design should be capable of dealing with a broad spectrum of ground realities (agro-ecological zones, production systems, and resource endowments), compatible with the felt needs and economic-cultural factors (poverty, existing practices, among others). The project adapted the agroecological approaches, including climate-resilient sustainable agriculture, to support smallholder farmers to adapt to climate-induced shocks and reduce farm vulnerabilities. Hence, the conduct of the capacity building using the Farmers Field Training Program (FFTP) approach is considered advantageous.
Generally, the projects aimed to give small farmers direct contact with agricultural experts and scientists to develop their technical and scientific capabilities to grow corn and other crops utilizing appropriate farming technologies through the development of the FFTP. Specifically, after completing the 12 training sessions under the FFTP farmers’ training course, farmer-beneficiaries are expected to: (1) Cultivate the minds of the farmers through lectures on value formation, changing attitudes towards teamwork, cooperation and sharing of technical information; (2) Equip farmers with scientific knowledge and technologies in the corn-based farming system; (3) Apply integrated pest management (IPM) using biological control agents and natural enemies of pests and disease-causing organisms and the safe use of less toxic pesticides when necessary; (4) Make farming as a business enterprise through the formation of farmers’ organizations, cooperatives and marketing networks; (4) Develop self-reliant and self-sustaining farmers and barangays through maximum production of corn, vegetables and other economic crops to supply the market demands; and (5) Strengthen the leadership capability of farmers in their respective barangays.
The Farmers Field Training Program Report can have the following sections: Section 1 describes the background as well as the need for capacity building for farmer-beneficiaries. It also presents the objectives of the capacity-building activity. Section 2 is an overview/concept of the Farmers Field Training Program. Section 3 is broken down into three subsections. The first subsection is the preliminary activities followed by the training proper—subsection on training proper outlines each of the sessions' actions. The last is the post-training. While Section 4 presents the result of the FFTP vis-à-vis its benefits to the farmer-participants; and Section 5 is the list of the references that could provide a basis or guide for future researches and field activities.
Activity proposal and budget preparation
The project team prepared a proposal and budgetary requirements for the series of FFTP activities. It entails the submission of the proposal and budgetary requirement to the Office of Research, Development and Extension Services (RDE) for approval. The process takes a while since the documents have to pass through several offices before approval. Since the activity adheres to the production cycle that is time-bounded, the delays in fund release have a bearing on the FFTP farmer-participants' planting schedule.
Selection of farmer-participants and venue for the FFS
- Developed criteria for selection of farmer-participants. The following criteria shall have complied. Farmer participants must have: (1) a Certificate of Registration attested by the Municipal Agriculture Officer (MAO) as registered farmers of the municipality; (2) Available area for corn and vegetable production for the replication/adoption of the technologies learned from the FFTP; (3) Committed to learn and undergo the FFTP modular training; and (4) Possessed the ability to become a farmer-trainer and has a willingness to share the information gained with other farmers. For the selection, the team enlists the help of the community leaders and the municipal agriculture technicians to identify participants.
- Conduct semi-structured interviews with individual farmers. A semi-structured interview was formulated to gather the farmer and farm profile and existing farmers’ practices. Farmers supply information on farmers' practices and validate the norm in the area, particularly pest control practices, fertilizer application, and general crop management practices. Use the profiles of the interviewed farmers to select the 30 FFTP participants. The information from the interviews was likewise used to prepare a farmer-cropping calendar. The cropping calendar represents a typical sequence of events that farmers implement on their farms. It includes the cultural methods used (e.g., land preparation, preparation of quality seeds, sowing of seeds, water management, the time of applying specific inputs – agrochemicals, fertilizers, and others).
- Selection of the training venue. The venue of the FFTP is within the Techno-Demo trial farm of NIPSC Batad Campus. Conduciveness to learning (appropriate for discussions/meetings) and accessibility are of utmost consideration in the selection of the venue. Inappropriate venue selection would sometimes hinder the participation of farmers. It is good to note that in this FFTP, the barangay units and the local executives extended their support in the conduct of the Farmer Field School (FFS) by providing transportation to the farmer- participants.
The FFTP sessions shall include at least three activities: (1) Agro-ecosystem analysis. A tool to guide farmer-participants to learn how to develop skills and knowledge about the ecosystem and to make better decisions; (2) Special topic. The special topic covers the subjects relevant to support the climate resiliency of corn farmers. The issues in general cover the vegetables morphology, management, and proven climate-resilient technologies and practices; and (3) Group dynamics activity. This is to strengthen group cohesion and enhance cooperation. The activity provides a change in atmosphere or lightens the mood in the training hall. Further, this also reinforces the learning process by incorporating the subject matter in group games. The FFTP covered a total of 21 days.
THE FARMERS FIELD TRAINING PROGRAM (FFTP) AND THE BENEFITS TO THE SMALL-HOLDER FARMERS
The conduct of FFTP has focused on the following sessions, including: 1) environment (climate condition, soil fertility, topography, water); 2) technological (agricultural practices decision making); and 3) biological (diseases, insects, pests, weeds).
The Agro-ecosystem Analysis (AESA) is being used as a tool that guides farmers to develop their skills and knowledge about the ecosystem. The farmers were taught to use the tool to observe the field situations, as a guide to analysis, and decision-making. The session activities provide the participants the opportunity to observe the various factors that affect plant growth using the AESA. It detailed the three significant steps of planting and cultivating, which were 1) growing seedlings, 2) preparing the field, and 3) transplanting vegetable seedlings. Using the AESA, the different groups present their observation of the various insects in the field. They classified the insects that they gathered and explained why they organized the insect as harmful or beneficial. Each group presented the result of their field observation. Each explained the effect of the natural environment and biological factors on the plant and made management recommendations.
Farmer-participants have provided hands-on experiences in the harvesting, post-harvest handling, and marketing of vegetable production. Harvesting tips were presented, and the correct process of sorting, packaging, and hauling of the harvested vegetables. The training under the FFTP provided scientific information to improve farmers’ existing practices on farm planning and recording. Since most do not have the records of their farm from inputs till the marketing. Some do the recordings; however, most of them were placed on whatever is available in the households (e.g., Calendar). In the newly acquired knowledge and skills, the participants were taught how to plan using the various tools to aid the farmers in making farm decisions. As a guide, a farm plan and record template were provided to them in their post-harvest handling activities.
The implementation of the Famers Field Training Program provides the basis for the Local Government Unit to promulgate various local policies and ordinances in support of the existing mandates of the Philippine laws. For instance, knowledge and skills gained by the farmer-participants in the use of organic fertilizer for soil health and productivity were initiated under Republic Act 10068, otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010. The law provides that, “it is the prime duty of the state to promote, propagate, develop further and implement the practice of organic agriculture in the Philippines in order to enrich the fertility of the soil, increase farm productivity, reduce pollution and destruction of the environment and prevent the depletion of natural resources. The Act provides for the establishment of a comprehensive organic agricultural program and of a National Organic Agricultural Board which shall carry out the policy and program. The composition, organization and powers, and functions of the Board are provided for in the text. The Board shall constantly devise and implement ways and means of producing organic fertilizers and other farm inputs and of helping to alleviate the problems of industrial waste and community garbage disposal.
THE FARMERS’ FIELD SCHOOL (FFS) COMMENCEMENT DAY
Farmers’ field day and technology adoption
The FFTP training culmination was the conduct of the field day cum graduation of the farmer-participants who completed the training module in a period of 21 days. FFTP farmers and FFTP facilitators organized this occasion with the support of the project team. The event showcased all the activities and achievements of the farmer-participants and an opportunity for interactions and sharing experiences, plus encouraging other persons to participate in the scaling up operations in the future. Invitations were extended to stakeholders, the farming community, policymakers, researchers, and community leaders. Agriculture sector enablers were well represented by the Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Training Institute, Provincial Government of Iloilo, Municipal Government of Batad, and Commission on Higher Education.
The 30 farmer-participants who completed the Farmers’ Field School (FFS) training were given farm inputs such as vegetable seeds and corn planting materials, vermicast (organic fertilizer), and farm tools to be used as a start-up kit to replicate/adapt the technologies learned from the FFS training to their respective farms. Training modules were also provided to farmer-participants as their guide in their farm adoption.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
The project extension support has created to enhanced awareness among smallholder farmers about factors affecting production, such as climate change, and how to prepare for the inevitable impact of these factors on their crops and livelihood sources. Other observed results of the FFS are as follows:
Empowerment of farmers. The training reinforced the farmer-participants knowledge and power of observation of their crops and fields. Farmer-participants shared that they can spot the first sign of fungus attack, pest invasion, or abnormal leaf color and know that slight changes in humidity or temperature can affect their crop yield. This process of observation and analysis is an essential tool in farm decisions. The early initiation of intervention mitigated the profound effect on their livelihood. It is also good to note that Farmer-participants discussed what they have learned from the FFTP training with co-farmers within their communities.
Replication created opportunities for practice and diverse income sources. The package of production inputs and tools has eased the technology replication and adaptation process. The field replication further ensures smallholder farmers to have healthy soils that retain moisture and compensate for erratic rainfall and unseasonal high temperatures. Likewise, the introduction of diverse farm livelihoods, veering away from mono-cropping practices, created other income sources aside from corn.
Sources of planting materials and inputs. FFTP farmer-participants were able to derive from the project the planting materials for the next cropping cycle. The vegetable seed banks are a significant contribution to resilience building. After the wrath of Typhoon Ursula in December 2019, (and the onset of the worldwide pandemic due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020), almost 50% of the corn, at the vegetative stage, were destroyed. Farmers shared that the natural environment-related shocks were lessened because the FFTP introduced a corn-based farming system. Corn is the main crop, with various varieties of vegetables as the secondary crops. Ursula has minimal effect on vegetables. Farmers still have proceeds from the vegetables (squash, eggplant, and okra), augment income lost from corn production. Aside from this, the planting for the next cycle is ensured by having a corn and vegetable seed bank.
Institutionalization of the farmer practice. The FFTP Training leads the way in realizing the farmer-participants in institutionalizing the sharing of knowledge and experience through the formation of a farmers’ association. The association will also be a vehicle for the group to access other government agencies' resources and services. The legalization of the Farmer Associations was lodged through registration with the Department of Labor and Employment.
This project benefitted from the generous support of the following organizations and individuals: (1) The Commission on Higher Education -National Agriculture Fisheries and Education System (CHED-NAFES), the funding agency; (2) LGU Batad, Provincial Government Environmental and Natural Resources Office (PGENRO), Agricultural Training Institute, Regional Field Office 6 (ATI-RFO6), the partner linkages for supporting the project activities; and lastly (3) The 30 farmer-beneficiaries whose lives touched as participants to the program.
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