Leopoldo Lopango, a rice farmer in Milagros, Masbate, woke up earlier than usual at 3 am; awakened by the rains pouring hard on their tin roof. He was grateful for the rains and for the graduation ceremonies of the RCEF – Farmer Field School (FFS) held on Sept. 4.
“The leaves of my palay, already in the maximum tillering stage, are turning yellowish green and in need of fertilizer. But the supply from the small water impounding area in our community is not enough. I thanked Him for it rained after eight days, and I applied fertilizer after our FFS graduation,” he said.
Lopango, 85 years old, is the oldest among the 30 participants of the five-day FFS covered by the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) – Rice Extension Services Program. Farmers in Barangay Magsalangi – an island village accessible via pump boat during high tide and habal-habal during low tide, were trained on the production of high-quality inbred rice, seed certification, and farm mechanization.
“I did not finish my elementary schooling due to the world war [so] I was so excited to get my certificate. I’ve attended seminars on livestock, corn, and high-value crops but this FFS is my favorite! I will apply in my 1ha- farm all the knowledge I’ve learned in this training,” he shared.
From the FFS, he learned that a well-leveled field is important because it facilitates efficient irrigation and fertilizer application, lesser weed incidence, better snail management, and promotes uniform rice growth.
“On fertilizer application, our lecturer emphasized the importance of knowing the right nutrient element, right amount, and right timing. There’s so much to learn! I’ve been farming for almost 70 years, and I thought that with my experience, I know everything,” he said
“I and my fellow trainees are grateful that this program has reached us despite the remoteness of our barangay. We are also thankful for the free certified inbred seeds that RCEF has been giving us for four cropping seasons now. Our farmer association also received a combine rice harvester from the program,” he added.
RCEF’s modified FFS aims to enhance farmers’ capabilities on modernized inbred rice and seed production and other farm skills needed for improved competitiveness and increased income.
The FFS in Milagros, Masbate was conducted by the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute in Bicol in collaboration with the Rice Business Innovations System (RiceBIS) Program, Masbate Provincial Agriculture Office, and the Municipal Agriculture Office.