By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has forged a deal with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other groups in order to step up efforts in training Filipino farmers how to use farm machinery and equipment, a move that could boost the country’s agricultural productivity.
A statement showed that DA, TESDA, Philippine Society of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers (PSABE), and the Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers and Distributors Association (AMMDA) recently inked a partnership for a mechanization skills enhancement program.
Right now, the Philippines currently lags behind in farm productivity with agriculture mechanization level of only 2.1 horsepower per hectare. This means that more than 16 percent of the farmers’ total production go to waste due to post-harvest losses.
For rice alone, the cost of palay production here currently stands at ₱12.72 per kilo, which is higher than the production cost of ₱6.22 per kilo in Vietnam and ₱8.86 per kilo in Thailand.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that the joint program to be implemented with TESDA and the aforementioned associations is in line with the goal of the DA to increase production and income of the farmers and fishers.
“We have a big role to play to make our farmers more productive, competitive, and prosperous,” Dar said.
Dubbed as “Train to Mechanize Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries,” the collaborative program aims to enhance the skills of agri-fishery machinery operators and technicians, as well as agricultural and biosystems engineers.
The program includes the development and roll-out of training regulations on agri-fishery mechanization and agricultural and biosystems engineering; crafting of qualification map; establishment of agricultural and biosystems engineering career progression and specialization; and support the implementation of training and extension under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
Through the program, DA is expected to sustain and strengthen the implementation of training programs for agricultural and biosystems engineers.
This will be carried out through the Department’s bureaus and attached agencies, which include the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering, among others.
RCEF is where all the tariff from rice imports will go and is supposed to be injected with ₱10 billion annually from 2019 to 2024 or a period of six years as part of the implementation of Rice Tariffication Law.
Out of the ₱10 billion, 10 percent or ₱1 billion is allotted to skills training in developing new education modules, and other related extension efforts alone, while ₱5 billion is allotted to mechanization.
It will be utilized by implementing agencies like ATI, TESDA, and and Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech).
Right now, RCEF is also funding the training for farmers through the Rice Extension Services Program (RESP). So far, 99 training have already been extended to regional focals, agricultural extension workers, farmers and farm workers including members of cooperatives and associations. 22 of these training are still ongoing.
Among the topics covered for the training include high-quality inbred rice production, farm mechanization, high-quality rice seed production, seed certification and analysis, rice machinery operation and maintenance, and management of agri-machinery pool.