BAGUIO CITY, June 14 - - Forty two extension and Agricultural Advisory Services (AAS) providers in the Cordillera Administrative Region(CAR) participated in a two-day Capacity Needs Assessment Workshop on June 5-6 at Camp John Hay here to help them provide better services to farmers in the region.
The participatory CNA workshop spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) aimed to draw out from extension stakeholders themselves the various issues, concerns, and needs in learning, knowledge management, and policy initiatives in the provision of agricultural extension in the region.
Some of the priority areas that the AAS stakeholders identified in terms of learning and knowledge management were the enhancement of their communication, presentation, and negotiation skills; preparation of business plans; linkages and networking to markets; the promotion of slow food and indigenous cuisine; database documentation of agricultural management practices including indigenous methods, and program monitoring and evaluation.
In terms of policy, Cordillera extension stakeholders identified the enhancement of the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture curriculum, inclusion of livestock emergency guidelines standards into disaster risk reduction and management, and the provision of hazard pay and incentives to extension providers, among others.
One of the main issues that also surfaced during the workshop is the need to develop and enhance the branding of the agricultural products of the Cordillera region in order to be at par with other products in Southeast Asia, especially with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) integration.
The two-day workshop was part of the activities for the project titled ‘Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Asia and Pacific Islands Region through Strengthened Agricultural Advisory Services’ (SAAS Project). The project is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and implemented by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.
The Asia-Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services Network (APIRAS) oversees the activities in the Philippines, in addition to the Asian subregions of South Asia and Pacific Islands, where the project is also being implemented.
Dr. Andrew Gasmen of the DA-ATI Policy and Planning Division and President of the Philippine Extension and Advisory Services Network (PhilEASNet), informed that the project which is implemented in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Fiji, is being piloted in CAR because of the presence of a strong IFAD project, a strong ATI regional training center, and presence of PhilEASNet in the region.
Dr. Virginia R. Cardenas, Regional Activities Coordinator of APIRAS and Dean of the University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Public Affairs and Development, explained that there is a need to expand the capacities and expertise of AAS providers through participatory means.
“We are using a supply and demand framework [in identifying our capacity needs]. We are looking at the provision of extension and the demands of our clientele,” she said. “We are now adding up the skills extension practitioners should have, but we should do it in a participatory manner,” she added.
The issues and concerns raised by the stakeholders in the Cordillera will guide the SAAS Project in determining the learning modules, knowledge sharing events, and policy advocacy initiatives that the project will produce and put forward.
These will also be advocated by a country forum which will be formed as part of the project. The country forum, according to an APIRAS policy brief, “shall serve as a platform for discussion and articulation of the stakeholders’ agenda, issues, and concerns in rural advisory services and agricultural innovation systems.” (PIA/Guien Eidrefson Garma-APIRAS)