Rice farmers in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija will benefit from two newly enacted ordinances designed to help them adapt to drought conditions and incorporate digital tools into their farming practices.

The ordinances aim to promote agriculture-based and institutional drought adaptation strategies through suitable extension efforts and optimize the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) by engaging the youth to assist rice farmers.

With climate change increasing the frequency of droughts, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data indicate that Nueva Ecija is among the provinces most vulnerable to these conditions. 

In 2015-2016, the province experienced a significant decline in rice production due to the El Niño-induced drought. The Climate Change Act of 2009 recognizes drought as a climate change hazard and encourages the participation of national and local governments in mitigating its adverse impacts.

A 2016-2017 survey by PhilRice highlighted the low rate of ICT use among Filipino rice farmers despite high access to technology. Given the inadequate number of agricultural extension workers in the country, alternative communication channels are needed to support older farmers. 

Tech-savvy youth are being enlisted as information mediators or ‘infomediaries’ to help farmers access information and introduce them to ICT tools that can ease farming tasks, as demonstrated by PhilRice’s Infomediary Campaign.

Aileen C. Litonjua, lead of PhilRice’s Policy Research and Advocacy Project, explained that to implement the ordinance on drought adaptation, the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) is encouraged to develop its own drought-adaptive mechanisms aligned with PhilRice recommendations such as alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation technology and PalayCheck-recommended practices. 

The MAO must also educate rice farmers through training programs and demonstrations and strengthen the capabilities of agricultural extension workers.

“To promote the use of ICT among rice farmers, the ordinance encourages the MAO to employ youth infomediaries on an on-the-job training basis, including K to 12 graduates with agricultural backgrounds, students of state universities and colleges with agriculture and related courses, and youth organizations,” Litonjua said.

Under the supervision of the municipal agriculturist, the infomediaries must complete and pass training in basic farming knowledge, ICT use, and proper conduct of fieldwork before deployment.

Among the four key strategies under the Department of Agriculture’s Masagana Rice Industry Development Program (MRIDP) are increasing resilience through climate change adaptation and accelerating digital transformation for rice agriculture.

With these new ordinances, the Policy Research and Advocacy Project, through its policy brokering initiative, continues to advocate for farmer-centric policies to local government units (LGUs) across the country.

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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