The pandemic has stopped general farming in its tracks, with 15 percent of crop-raising and fishing activities in the countryside suspended in March. The movement of produce from the provinces was thus affected, curtailing food supply in Metro Manila.
While the government granted subsidies to farmers, the private sector teamed up with farmers’ groups to alleviate the problem by bringing produce to the cities during the enhanced community quarantine. Facebook and Instagram served as the marketplace.
The farmers’ knowledge of technology and digital tools served them in good stead. To help boost productivity and marketability, the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) last year launched the Digital Farmers Program (DFP) in partnership with Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart).
The program teaches small-scale farmers to use digital tools through courses like the use of smartphones, e-commerce and online payment systems.
While the Department of Agriculture had already developed many online resources, including mobile apps, farmers weren't using the new technology. Now, more than ever, farmers can benefit from learning how to be more tech-savvy. The average age of a farmer in the Philippines is 57 years.
"With uncertainties brought on by COVID-19, we all have to adapt. The Digital Farmers Program is a training ground for the new style of doing things. It is digital and inclusive and geared toward the growth of the agriculture sector," said Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto.
DFP links technology-savvy youths with small-holder farmers so that the latter could tap the digital space, and consequently, establish a channel for exchanging ideas—from using modern agricultural technologies, to discovering time-tested farming traditions.
To continue the roll-out of DFP lessons, the DA-ATI and Smart recently completed the DFP 101 Master Trainers’ Bootcamp, the first virtual interactive “Training for Trainors" workshop for DFP. Information officers and media production specialists from the Information Services Section of 15 Regional ATI Training Centers nationwide joined the web event.
The week-long course prepared DA-ATI personnel to conduct their own online training activities. Under DFP 101, the topics that they are expected to be able to impart to farmers in their respective regions include the basics of smartphone use, accessing the Internet, Internet safety and security, agri apps, social media, and social media marketing.
Advance phases will include lessons on mobile agriculture and financial services such as third-party farming apps, mobile e-money, and microcredit, entrepreneurship, smart farming, and financial literacy.
"We are expanding our training capabilities as we do things online more and more,” said DA-ATI Director Alfredo Aton. He thanked Smart for its continued support. Also present at the workshop were DA-ATI Information Services Division Chief Antonieta Arceo and Smart VP for Community Partnerships Darwin Flores.
The workshop was facilitated by trainers from Limitless Lab, a strategic design and innovation company. StartupPH Training also gave pointers on effective online training to sustain participants’ interest.
The DFP is an advocacy of Smart Communities, which taps Technology for Development to narrow down the digital divide. The program is also aligned with the commitment of Smart's parent company, PLDT, to support the 17 Sustainable Goals of the United Nations.
For the second half 2020, 28 batches of the DFP 101 trainings will be rolled out starting on August.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/SmartCommunities.