Empowering farmers and fishers through FCC

TAGBILARAN CITY, BOHOL -- Transferring knowledge to the farmers and fishers has been a pressing problem for the agriculture and fisheries sector. With the influx of latest technologies, the Department of Agriculture through the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) saw the opportunity to take advantage of these technologies and as a result of this viewpoint, the Farmers Contact Center (FCC) came into fruition.

The FCC is an alternative delivery channel in providing timely information and extension services. Through the FCC, people specially the farmers and fishers, can inquire on agri-related concerns via voice (call), short messaging service SMS or text) as well as emails and other online communication such as instant messaging and fora. The FCC is under the e-Farming component of the e-Extension Program for Agriculture and Fisheries of DA.
Knowledge Transfer and the FCC
According to Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap with Filipinos expecting DA to provide food for them and with the threat of climate change hampering the food security of the country, knowledge transfer to the farmers would be the great equalizer.
“The way to achieve the goal of having a country that is food secured is to transfer the knowledge to the farmers and fishers, that’s why we are doing this project” Secretary Yap said.  It is critical that these knowledge and technologies should be known by the farmers as Secretary Yap noted, “Thirty percent of the yield of farmers is lost when the knowledge is not shared to the farmers.”
ATI Director Asterio P. Saliot affirmed his belief that the FCC can really help the farmer. “The Farmers’ Contact Center was conceived not out from necessity but of its commitment to service and dedication to the cornerstone of agriculture --- the farmers” Saliot said.
Saliot also assured that the FCC would be a way for the private sector and farmers to be in contact. “It is my utmost conviction and belief that through the inception of this Farmers’ Contact Center, the ATI can bring in the private sectors and commodity champions closer together” Saliot added.
No Shortage of Guests
The FCC launching was held at Bohol Tropics Resort in Tagbilaran City, Bohol last November 28, 2009 and was witnessed by more than 350 guest composed mainly of DA and Local Government Unit (LGU) Officials, extension workers, farmers and people and non-government organizations from the various municipalities of Bohol, there was no doubt on how big the event was.
Guests for the launch from the different DA agencies were led by Secretary Yap. With him were Dir. Honorio Flameño, OIC/Director, DA-Information Technology Center for Agriculture and Fisheries, Ricardo Oblena, DA Regional Executive Director VII, Roy Imperial, DA-OSEC, Andres Bojos, Regional Director, BFAR 7, and Atty. Judy Carol Dansol, Extension Department of NFA Central Office. Mr. Richard Juanillo, Deputy Executive Director of DOST-PCARRD was also present.
LGU officials from municipalities of Bohol like Alicia, Pilar, Loboc and Candijay likewise attended the event. Romeo Teruel, Human Resource Management Officer (HRMO) was there to represent Bohol Governor Erico Boyles Aumentado.
Unveiling of FCC Numbers
Before the ceremonial first call, Secretary Yap together with the other guests led the unveiling of the FCC hotline numbers and the official video plug of FCC was simultaneously presented.
The FCC can be contacted at 982-2474 (AGRI) for Metro Manila, 1-800-10-982-2474 (AGRI) for provincial toll free call and 0928-4990-965 for mobile users. Inquiries can also be sent through text at 391-32 (DA) for SMART and TalkNText subscribers and 0928-4990-965 for non-SMART subscribers.
Initially the FCC is available from 8:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon from Monday to Friday.
MOA Signing
For successful operation of the FCC, DA collaborated with the Devolved Agriculturists of the Philippines, Inc. (DAPI) and Philippine Association of Provincial and City Agriculturist (PAPCA) for the provision of technical assistance that will be asked by the farmer-caller.  
One of the objectives of the MOA was to establish a referral system with the partner organizations like DAPI and PAPCA in responding to the queries/request of the clienteles of the DA. The MOA also aims to institutionalize the delivery of electronic extension services in the field of Agriculture, fisheries and natural resources for the farming and fishing sectors.

The MOA was signed by Secretary Yap with Ms. Jesusa Noveda and Mr. Jose Almendares, National Presidents of DAPI and PAPCA respectively. Gerardo C. Uy, National Vice President and Arnold Raul E. Geronimo Regional President for Region I was also present for DAPI.
With the FCC, the agriculture and fisheries sector in a way is empowered, it is a step closer to realizing the goal of having a food secured country. Through the FCC knowledge and technology shall be within the reach of our farmers and fishers. A mechanism that can be tap by farmers whenever there is a query or a problem in their farm that needs consultation. And because of this, the Farmers’ Contact Center has the potential to spell a difference to the lives of our farmers and fishers. (Benedict C. Natividad, Photo by Darwin Bibit)