Agricultural extension services at one's fingertips, that is the promise the Department of Agriculture (DA) and a telecommunication giant promise to make agritechno-info at the arms' reach.
With the Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDT), the government agriculture department makes it easy for farmers and fisherfolk to access the Farmers' Contact Center (FCC) through a flat rate call or short messaging service.
The project allocates special lines connecting farmers to farm technicians and experts from the aggie department so they can be guided and informed on various concerns without having to worry about high call rates.
A few weeks ago, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap sealed an agreement with PLDT vice president for corporation relations management Renato Castaneda formalizing their participation in this farmer-friendly project.
Yap said the initiative done through its Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), is part of the Extension component of the government's flagship program on food security dubbed as the FIELDS.
FIELDS, which enumerates the six areas where government support are being focused on under the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's food security and sufficiency agenda, stands for Fertilizers, Irrigation and other rural infrastructure like farm-to-market roads (FMRs), Extension services and education for farmers, Loans, Dryers and other postharvest facilities, and Seeds and other genetic materials.
Incoming Agriculture Secretary Bernie Fondevilla welcomed the project and vowed full support and strengthen it on his watch.
President Arroyo recently named Fondevilla, a former DA undersecretary and Yap's Chief of Staff at the DA, to succeed Yap.
ATI Director Asterio Saliot said that initially, agricultural experts will be on hand to answer queries received by the FCC, which has also established direct links to the various DA offices and attached agencies including the state universities and colleges.
Saliot said that farmers and fisherfolk can ask about, among others, information on current prices of commodities, schedule of irrigation water releases, marketing of farm produce, and control measures for pest and disease incidents, through the FCC.