Photo by: Jayson C. Berto

Training programs for farmers covered by the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the Rice Tariffication Law will continue while ensuring healthy and safety practices in its activities to minimize COVID-19 risk.

“There will be modifications in learning approach and delivery to optimize learning under the new normal. It is going to be different and difficult for the implementing agencies and the trainees but we need to fulfill our mission,” said Dr. Rosana Mula, chair of RCEF-Rice Extension Services Program (RESP) Technical Working Group (TWG) and Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI).

Mula said the Farmers’ Field School (FFS) on the production of high-quality inbred rice and seeds, and farm mechanization conducted by farm schools was redesigned to minimize number of contact days while ensuring that rice production principles and practices at critical growth stages are taught, including financial literacy.

Mula added that the FFS is complemented with radio-based education, technical briefings during seed distribution, and information materials in various formats.

Within six years, some 2 million farmers are expected to be reached on modern rice production using various learning platforms, while a critical mass of 300,000 farmers are expected to enroll as scholars of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the season-long FFS.

More specialists and trainers will also be guided to help farmers address their field problems and mechanize their operations.

Dr. Karen Eloisa T. Barroga, vice chair of RESP TWG and deputy executive director for development at DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), said the Rice Specialists Training Course (RSTC) will soon pilot-test combined online lectures with hands-on, face-to-face learning.

“The course aims to develop high level of technical skills such as field problems diagnostic skills to be able to help farmers. However, given our situation, we will now require trainees to establish techno demos right at their areas and come to PhilRice for only a week for their field practicum.  The trainees will also attend online lectures and exercises, analyze case studies, and collect pest specimens,” Barroga explained.

PhilRice, which leads the RSTC, had already produced 30 graduates with 112 farmer-graduates from Llanera and Rizal in Nueva Ecija, whom they trained on rice and seed production using the PalayCheck System.  Graduates were mostly from the regional offices of DA and ATI.

Before the Luzon-wide lockdown, two batches of RSTC were on-going, which comprised the regional staff from ATI and DA in Visayas and Mindanao and from TESDA. Arrangements are being made for course completion.

For trainers, about 40 training of trainers courses are scheduled to be conducted, while some 200-300 graduates of previous rice production season-long training courses will be provided with an online refresher course developed by PhilRice and ATI. The refresher course is offered via ATI’s eLearning site at  www.e-extension.gov.ph/elearning.

Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (DA-PHilMech) will also ensure training of specialists and trainers on rice machine operation and maintenance, and management of farmers’ coops and associations that received machines from RCEF.

TESDA Sec. Isidro S. Lapeña emphasized the need for more trainers under the RCEF-RESP, “… when we extend the knowledge we learned from training, we are basically lifting farmers from poverty. If we are able to do that, everything else will follow”.

Aside from training programs, RCEF-RESP also distributed production guides to farmer-beneficiaries. As of this writing, about 400,000 farmers had received the guide on modern rice farming during seed distribution.

RESP is a component of Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law, which allots P1 billion every year to enhance capacities of rice farmers to become competitive in rice production. Sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Villar, the program is a six-year government initiative to help the farmers compete in the international rice market. For more information about the program, queries can be sent thru ATI (0920 946 2474).

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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