Underfunding of workers in rice extension is an important factor affecting the success of extension work. This is tackled during the Invigorating the Philippine Rice Extension System forum held on September 5 at PhilRice Central Experiment Station, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

“Our extension workers lose their motivation since they are underpaid. We should increase not only their capabilities but their resources as well,” ATI’s Dr. Andrew Gasmen said.

Isabela Municipal Agriculture Officer Emilio P. Camba emphasized that most AEWs are hindered to attend trainings and seminars owing to lack of funding from the municipal government.

Furthermore, Dr. Greta Gabinete of Western Visayas State University said that extension is only third priority in SCUs. “In terms of funding, instruction comes first, followed by research, then extension,” she said.

To address this issue, Dr. Santiago Obien, Chairman of the Asia Rice Foundation’s (ARF) Board of Trustees, said that each province should be required to submit a five-year provincial rice extension strategic plan, including budgetary requirement that could be co-funded by the national and local government.

“Agricultural agencies and civil societies need to support salary standardization of local AEWs to increase their motivation,” Obien said.

On the other hand, he suggested that LGUs should renew agriculture-extension-related scholarship programs with standard rate of allowance, service contracts, and guaranteed work after graduation to encourage younger workers in this field.

National rice extension network and coordination with other government agencies that provide basic services for rice need to be strengthened according to the stakeholders.

Also, Obien mentioned the need for LGUs to develop a pool of local intermediaries (i.e., barangay council agriculture committee, input suppliers, seed growers, farmer leaders, civil societies) at the village level. These local intermediaries are tasked to provide immediate rice extension support to clients and serve as link between clients and technical specialists.

It was deemed necessary to create a certifying body that will provide license to AEWs, provide extension certification to technical specialists, and upgrade the rice extension curriculum, at least once every five years, to be attuned to the changing agricultural environment.

“They should be provided with specialized rice extension training, especially in municipalities where rice is a priority, with potential certification that is not as rigorous as the technical specialist certification,” Obien said. It was also suggested that agencies should harness the potential of ICTs to reach more clients and upgrade their e-readiness skills.

Farmer representatives reiterated during the forum that logistical support and technical knowledge is not enough.

Extension workers’ heart for development and helping farmers is important to strengthen the system. “I think we need to emphasize that extension workers should have more than just technical information – they should have the heart for extension work,” Ev Angeles of PhilRice said.

Moreover, Dr. Gelia Castillo, Philippine National Scientist, emphasized that extension is more than just technology transfer. “It is human development which requires human interaction such as connecting farmers with other farmers. Many of the things that will develop agriculture require collective action, not just individual action,” Castillo pointed out.

“Agriculture is forever since it is the only way we can grow food. So, I hope we follow up the recommendations of this forum,” Dr. Castillo added.

Stakeholders from government and non-government agencies, private companies, SCUs, and the scientific community participated in the event.

Organizers of the forum were  DA-ATI, DA-PhilRice, and the ARF, in partnership with the DA-National Rice Program and IRRI.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute