Farmers will soon have access to more digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and marketability under a new initiative of the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) and Smart Communications (Smart) called the Digital Farmers Program (DFP).
Through DFP, Smart aims to empower small-scale farmers through a ladderized education approach. The first phase involves familiarizing them with smartphone features, android capabilities, social media platforms, search engines, messaging channels, and internet safety. Current and next generation farmers will also be trained on phonetography — knowledge on basic photo and videography skills to develop local agri-related contents; which will be accompanied with production, interviewing, writing and editing skills workshops. At the same time, trainees will be tutored on mobile agriculture and financial services – 3rd party farming apps, mobile e-money, micro credit, and more. The final phase will involve training on digital entrepreneurship, Internet of Things (IoT), content development modules, and advance Internet safety, such as data privacy.
DFP aims to advance the local industry’s adoption of more innovative forms of technology in farming, which is in line with the Government’s long-term vision of IoT penetration in Philippine Agriculture and overall digital inclusion. These include the use of drones, analytics, precision farming, artificial intelligence or A.I., climate and weather monitoring I.T. solutions, digital apps, e-money, blockchain, and other multi-layer platforms that would require basic knowledge of emerging technologies and deeper comprehension of its potential by end-users.
Digital inclusion on small-scale farming
The initiative was conceptualized upon Smart and DA-ATI’s research on the current status of small-scale Filipino farmers.
A study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) discovered a negative annualized growth of -1.1% in a span of five years in the population of Filipino farmers from a baseline of estimated 12 million. Due to the small-scale Filipino farmers’ average age of 57 years old and average educational attainment of 5th grade, they are unable to maximize the latest agricultural technologies that can help boost their sole means of livelihood.
This is where Smart and DA-ATI see the opportunity to be one of many possible building blocks of digital inclusion on small-scale farming. The latter is a government agency under the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture that provides training programs and services to farmers, fisherfolks, and agricultural extension workers to equip them with outcome-based knowledge and skills.
The partnership supports the Government’s national plan on sustainable agriculture and inclusive growth through directly accelerating access to productivity-improving farming technologies and solutions, where delayed market adoption and limited industry growth are evident.
“We are expecting the income of farmers to increase as they adapt innovations intended to boost their productivity and marketability. As this happens, we hope that the public will see how agriculture is a sustainable and profitable industry, so that more Filipinos – especially the youth – will get into it and help feed generations to come,” explained Antonieta J. Arceo, Chief – Information Services Division at DA-ATI.
Technology for development
DFP is part of the Smart Communities advocacy of Smart, which taps Technology for Development (Tech4D) to narrow down the digital divide. The program is also aligned with the commitment of the wireless services provider’s parent company, PLDT, to support the 17 Sustainable Goals of the United Nations.
“The project specifically gives emphasis to the UN’s goals of No Poverty and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,” said Darwin F. Flores, VP for Community Partnerships at Smart.
“There is already an economic divide, so it is upon companies such as Smart to eliminate a digital divide through initiatives such as DFP,” Flores added.
“We are very hopeful with DFP, as it combines the technology coming from Smart with the expertise of DA-ATI in terms of the various agricultural technologies,” Chief Arceo stated.