Computer-based technology for impact

By: Nenita V. Desamero and Daisy D. Pablero
28 August 2014


Some of these farmers are 70 years old or older. They are not the typical computer-savvy people whom you get to  meet everyday. They have never been trained in using computer keyboards, mouse, and all. In fact, their fingers are  more at home with touching the rough surfaces of their plows and removing the mud that many times gets stuck on  their trousers, rather than ticking those computer keys. Yet, for all their lack of computer literacy, they still  are thirsting, they still are willing to go high tech to learn new farming technologies.

Old age, lack of computer skills, and the like. How does one beat these odds? How can we best share computer-based  technology for impact? The technology for sharing: the Nutrient Manager for Rice (NMR).

Technology: what’s in it for the farmers?

NMR is a computer-based decision support tool providing site-specific fertilizer application recommendations based on farmers’ actual rice production practices, field condition, variety, and actual and target grain yield. The recommendations guide farmers when to apply what and how much fertilizer is required to achieve a certain target  yield with a particular variety in a specific field. NMR was developed originally for irrigated areas, for sequential adaptation, dissemination, and adoption by target farmers in the rainfed lowland. 

Per peso investment. Across sites, for every peso invested in applied fertilizer, 16 (84%) farmers produced an average of 725 kg grains with NMR compared with 416 kg with farmers’ practice. The farmers gained, on the average, 309 kg more produce per peso investment or 103% higher fertilizer cost efficiency with NMR  recommendation.

2011 training. Before the end of the season, on 15 September 2011, during the first project evaluation and planning  workshop, the research team trained the first nine beneficiaries from the LGUs on NMR. The nine initial beneficiaries became instrumental in the initial technology diffusion. They provided target farmers of their domain access to NMR recommendations.

Farmers' children as participants in the Nutrient Manager training-workshop
Farmers' children as participants in the Nutrient Manager training-workshop

Out-scaling the technology

Trained human resource. As an initial out-scaling, the research team expanded in the 2012 wet season the NMR  adaptation cum techno-demo trials in Pura, Tarlac, and General Tinio, Nueva Ecija, with seven and eight farmer partners, respectively, exploiting the most of the participatory approach. 

Tapping farmers’ children. Children nowadays are highly computer literate. They are fond of spending time and resources in computer gaming. With this computer skill already embedded in the children’s system, they can greatly help their parents in accessing the NMR site and generating recommendations for their parents’ farms. These children, while having fun, will serve as effective infomediaries to their families.

2012 training. To empower farmers and their children on how to use NMR, the project leader and author of this paper and researcher Daisy Pablero, together with LGU partners, conducted NMR hands-on training. Trainees came from the four pilot sites: Pura and Victoria, Tarlac; San Nicolas, Pangasinan; and General Tinio, Nueva Ecija. 

Farm walk in Pura, Tarlac province
Farm walk in Pura, Tarlac province

A total of 171 (82 farmers and 89 children) participated in the training. Of the farmer participants, 80% and 20% were male and female, respectively; 53% of the children were male and 47%, female. The female children were from 11 to 28 years of age, while those of the males were from 15 to 38 years old. The ages of female farmer participants, on the other hand, ranged from 25 to 66, while those of the male were from 22 to 77 years. During the sessions, the training team observed that, with proper motivation, farmers in their 70s were still willing to go ‘high tech’ to enable them to learn new farming technologies.

Up-scaling the technology

2013 training of trainers. To reach more target beneficiaries in 2013, the third year of project implementation, the paper author and Ms. Pablero organized a regionwide hands-on training on NMR and other ICT-based tools.  Trainees were researchers from the Department of Agriculture- Regional Field Office (DA-RFO), provincial agricultural officers (PAOs), municipal agricultural officers (MAOs) and research and extension workers from the state colleges and universities from regions 1, 2, and 3.

Gender. Across the region, there were more female participants (59%) than males (41%). The ages of female participants were from 20 to 64; the males belonged to the 21 to 62 age bracket. About 42% of the participants were 51 to 60. The younger participants guided the older ones who have difficulty using computers, nonetheless, interested to learn the NMR, so they can provide their farmers appropriate fertilizer application recommendations.

Impact of training of trainers

An immediate impact of the hands-on training of trainers was seen, when a participant, Ms. Evelyn C. Santos, the provincial rice coordinator of Nueva Ecija, requested the research team to also train the technicians and farmers under her domain. She arranged the training of three batches of beneficiaries within a span of 3 weeks right after the training in Region 3 (18 June 2013). Thus, on 26 June 2013, the research team trained 28 and 36 agricultural technicians and farmer beneficiaries combined in barangays San Isidro and San Leonardo, respectively, and 33 beneficiaries in Sta. Rosa, on 11 July 2013.

As an offshoot of the regionwide training, 35 NMR adaptation trials cum techno-demo, spread across Region 1 (17 trials), Region 2 (4 trials), and Region 3 (14 trials), were established in the wet season of 2013. These activities were led by the graduates of the training of trainers courses.

Nenita V. Desamero and Daisy D. Pablero work at Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).