By RALPH LAUREN ABAINZA
Agriculture must meet the changing needs of the planet and the expectations of regulators, food processors, and retailers. Benchmarking of best practices is vital to ensure sustainability in agriculture. This is what experts from Israel shared with local stakeholders on Thursday, November 10, 2022, during a one-day learning exchange at the Bureau of Plant Industry in Quezon City.
In his opening speech, Israel's ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss shared his intention to further boost the cooperation between Israel and the Philippines to modernize the country's agriculture. Israel is known for their remarkable agricultural transformation through modern technology.
Nina Lehmann, an Israeli expert specializing in agricultural extension, emphasized agriculture's need to adopt climate-resilient and sustainable practices given the worsening effects of climate change. "We cannot rely anymore on rain, we have to support the plants when rain is not on time. The changing climate also affects the appearance and behavior of pests and disease," she said.
Another Israeli expert, Simenski Eliyahu, underscored the importance of crop management and digging deeper than what seems the obvious problem. He shared their thorough study on pest development in their project dealing with a mango pest called cecid fly (locally known as kurikong).
Moshe Broner, an Israeli expert on water technology, shared the Israeli way of managing water in farms and highlighted the importance of science-based water and soil management to ensure high crop yields. In Israel's experience, full government support for smallholder farmers is vital in realizing technological advancements.
Jacqueline Sy Go, a social entrepreneur and owner of a cacao farm in Mindanao, shared that working with Israeli consultants enabled her to increase the success rate of their farm. According to her, working with Israeli experts made her realize the importance of knowing the principle behind every practice or method and creativity in solving crop-related issues. "The sharing of experience, the sharing of life itself, I think Filipinos really have to be open-minded. It's time to be open, to be on the ground, and get in touch," she said.
During an open forum, the Israeli experts shared the importance of meeting the farmers halfway to convince them to adopt the proposed practices and technology. Experts and the government should let the farmers realize that the new technology is beneficial through local demonstration. The technology should be at the level the farmer would be willing to adopt, not necessarily the latest or the costliest, according to Lehmann.
Israel is committed to continuing its collaboration with the Philippines to help boost the country's agricultural sector.