NAGA City— Farmers Edgar Pesebre, Alejandro Valencia and Librado Banastao, Jr. have one common goal—to get updated on new rice technologies to be shared to their fellow farmers in their respective municipalities.

The three farmers were among the 180 Local Farmer Technicians (LFT) that attended the LFT Regional Congress on June 11, 2018 in Hotel Robertson here. LFTs act as active partners of the DA and local government units in promoting and disseminating rice farm technologies.

Pesebre is the appointed LFT of Polangui in 2011 during the launching of the Hybridization Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA). With the various trainings and seminars that he attended as an LFT, he was able to increase his rice production and income in barangay Balangibang, Polangui, Albay.

According to him, his LFT appointment gave him more confidence and authority in interacting with his fellow farmers and convincing them to adapt new rice technologies especially on the use of Hybrid Seeds.

At present, the farmers in Polangui are enrolled in the Climate Field School being conducted by the DA through the Agricultural Training Institute and LGU.

On the other hand, Valencia is a newbie in the LFT program. However, after earning a degree in Agriculture Technology and Entrepreneurship from the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture in 1999, he decided to develop his 2.5-ha rice field in San Jose, Camarines Sur and adapted the crop rotation farming system with vegetables.

In 2003, he became president of the Rangas Farmers Associations covering nine barangays.

“Mas gusto ko magLFT kesa magwork bilang agricultural technician (AT) ta sa LFT, nakakabwelo ako kan sakuyang plano asin proyekto para sa sakong asosasyon. Pag AT pano, kapot ka kan pulitiko. Su gusto ninda an masusunod (I prefer being an LFT rather than working as an agricultural technician because as an LFT, I am free with my plans and projects for my association. If I am an AT, I will be under a politician, I will have to obey what they demand),” said Valencia.

His plans for his association include farm-to-market roads, farm machineries, extension canal, and conduct of livelihood trainings for the families of his fellow members.

Banastao, on the other hand, is an LFT for over seven years now in barangay Fundado, Canaman. He is the president both in the regional and national level of the LFT associations.

He cited that at first, there was difficulty in convincing his fellow farmers to adapt new farm technologies especially on hybridization. But with his various trainings and seminars on new farm technologies which he adapted in his 1.5-ha farm, his fellow farmers become curious when they saw the big improvement and high yield in his farm.

“To see is to believe,” Banastao said of his fellow farmers. He is the Vice-Chairman of the Municipal Agriculture and Fishery Council in their municipality of the DA Rice Program.

According to Agriculturist Mar Bustarga, the number of LFTs in the Bicol region increased because of the challenge posed by the government to increase the rice areas to 176,495 hectares.

Bustarga also underscored that Bicol maintained its status as the 5th largest producer of palay in the country.

Meanwhile, Regional Seed Coordinator Anacleto Esplana discussed the Farmers’ Production and Exchange of High Quality Inbred Rice Seeds (SEEDEX) Program. This program will help raise small farmers’ productivity and income by shifting to high quality seeds and enhancing access to appropriate inbred varieties.

Other topics to discussed during the congress include Updates on implementation of Model Farms, LFT trainings for 2018, and Rice Crop Manager (RCM); Information Sources on Rice Farming; PRIME Project Updates; Farm Mechanization; and Mushroom Cultivation.

The LFT Program aims to develop a core of qualified and trained rice farmers as reinforcement of LGU-based agricultural extension workers in developing and promoting modern rice production and post-production technologies. These rice farmers are categorized either for irrigated, rainfed, and upland ecosystems. (jaysonmgonzales)