Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, Philippines
Farmers' Hero: How an Agricultural Technical Has Helped Farmers Prepare for the Impacts of Climate Change
Lorimer “Kokoy” Llamera is an agriculture technologist assigned at the Municipal Agriculture Office in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, Mindanao. He is 29 years old and has been involved in agriculture extension work since 2008.
During the early days in the job, he talked to the farmers about their most pressing needs in relation to agricultural production. The farmers cited financial assistance, stable seed prices, low production cost of chemical inputs and seeds, technology enhancement to optimize production, and the availability of suitable high-yielding seed varieties.
Kokoy observed the farmers as they performed their day-to-day activities and noticed farming practices that were damaging to the environment. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides were liberally and incorrectly applied. Burning of rice stubbles was a common method of clearing the lands.
Inappropriate cultural management practices from land preparation to harvesting led to low production. The task of turning around the situation proved to be challenging. As an agricultural extension worker, it is part of Kokoy’s responsibility to ensure that the small holder and landless farmers he works with understand the gravity of their condition in relation to climate change, the biggest threat to their livelihood.
Kokoy helped farmers find a way of dealing with the problems by conducting capacity building training on plant genetic resources conservation, development, and use (PGR CDU). The training helped arrest the harmful practices while at the same time addressed some of the needs that the farmers identified. The training, conducted for an entire season through the farmer field school (FFS) approach, enhanced the participants’ knowledge of more effective and efficient rice farming system. The farmers developed skills on how to breed varieties that would contain their own preferred traits. They learned how to apply fertilizer correctly, from the appropriate volume needed to the timing of application, and the proper use of biological control agents and other natural farming techniques to control pest and diseases, consequently decreasing production costs.
Proper land preparation and other cultivation management and scheduling of farming activities improved. Further, the farmers learned the right way of seed selection and record keeping to track their income and expenses. Most FFS participants increased their production ranging between 5 and 20 cavans depending on their land area. This translated to an increase in their income between 10% and 15%. Some farmers have adapted using the seeds for the Balingasag red rice, the town’s major contribution to the province’s agricultural economy.
The results created impact not just in the lives of the training participants but in their villages as well. The practice of most of the negative old farming habits was discontinued as farmers realized that these contributed to the worsening effects of climate change. Some have reduced their usage of pesticides while others have totally stopped using these and have shifted to natural or organic methods of dealing with pests.
The FFS training further taught farmers how to deal with local government; the farmers now communicate to the leaders in the community and campaign for the creation of policies and ordinances that prohibit burning of rice straws, improper disposal of pesticides container, and other policies that will benefit farmers.
Even after the training, Kokoy continued to provide the FFS graduates with his technical expertise while also facilitating training for other farmers. This service is considered valuable and highly appreciated by the farmers. But Kokoy would always remind them to be confident in their own abilities and proceed with their farming activities using everything they learned from the training.
Working with farmers of varying attitudes is not easy, but once the relationship is established, there is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the farmers. The FFS, Kokoy says, helps in making it easier for an extension worker like him and the farmers to communicate with each other.
Done well, extension service can help maximize the potentials of farmers. In this case, the extension worker who performs his job diligently has helped farmers find better prospects of improving their lands and responding to crises that they may encounter due to climate change. Fittingly, Kokoy is esteemed as reflected in the words of one farmer, “Kokoy’s support gives us proper guidance in the right direction and inspires us.”
[This publication has been produced with the assistance of the International Treaty. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the International Treaty.]