Friday, March 2, 2012

Cellphones benefit farmers; youth proposed as info channels


Returning scholars of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) had identified farmers’ benefits from using cellphones and the prospect of tapping the youth in disseminating agriculture information through Information Communication Technologies (ICTs).

Hazel V. Antonio, who finished MSc in International Development Studies in Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands, and Jaime A. Manalo IV, an alumnus of Communication for Social Change program at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, noted cellphones as innovative tools in helping farmers increase productivity. Results of their study were presented in a seminar conducted at the Institute`s Central Experiment Station in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

In her study, Antonio found that cellphones brought farmers savings on transaction and knowledge search costs. The communication device also reduced production expenses and helped increase yield. Results also revealed that the use of cellphones in canvassing palay prices could result in higher selling price as the device helps farmers identify buyers with the most reasonable price. 

In a season, farmers who learned new rice technologies via PhilRice Farmers’ Text Center gained an additional income of P39,000. The farmer-respondents also reported that their selling price increased to as high as PhP14,000 by getting traders’ quotations without travelling.

Her respondents further said they saved as much as PhP8,403 from transportation cost. They used their mobile phones in supervising farm laborers and locating seed and fertilizer sources.

The interviewed farmers also said they gained PhP730 by inquiring through text, instead of going to sources of technical information such as in municipal agriculture offices.

Overall, 85 of the 100 farmer-respondents were able to benefit either in the form of savings, higher income through better selling price of palay, higher yield, or a combination of the three.

Moreover, results showed that using cellphones for agriculture-related activities save more time in farming, which resulted in generating more income from non-agricultural work such as fishing, carpentry, and tricycle driving.

Supporting the results of the study, Manalo said that in a country that envisions food self-sufficiency, the advantages of using cellphones must be extended to more farmers so they could also enjoy the benefits.

A part of Manalo’s research revealed that youth perceived farming as either a wealth multiplier, key to achieving their dreams for their family, or a way to help poor relatives.

“A very strong link between love of family and the desire to continue farming in the future was also established in this study.  A good number of farmers’ children remain to have favorable perceptions on farming and would like to be involved in it in different capacities, directly or indirectly. Some of them want to be farming investors,” he said.

With the results, he recommended that the youth be tapped as channels in extending information to their farmer-parents and relatives who have anxieties in using the device and other ICTs. The recommendation is further supported by the results of another study in 2010, which revealed that farmers want their children to search information for them.

To engage the youth in searching information through cellphones, he proposed that rice camps and information campaign on youth as information channels for farmers would be conducted.

He also suggested for the inclusion of an ICT4D (ICT for Development) in agriculture module in the Technology and Livelihood Education subject; incorporation of games and online quizzes on agriculture-related websites; and for the PhilRice Farmers’ Text Center to consider the “farming buddy” and “textmate” set-up.

DA-PhilRice is a government-owned and –controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding, cost-reducing, and environment-friendly technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

For more information, please visit or contact DA-PhilRice at Maligaya, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija with telephone number (044) 456-0285 loc 511/512 or any PhilRice station near you. You may also visit their website at www.philrice.gov.ph or text your questions to 0920-911-1398.