Nueva Vizcaya eyes ICRISAT ICT program; Smart, Globe to help farmers

Marianne V. Go - The Philippine Star

HYDERABAD, India – Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Ruth Padilla is hoping to tap local telecoms giants Smart and Globe to help launch the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics’ (ICRISAT) ICT innovations for agriculture, specifically its Green SIM and Green Phablet for smallholder farmers.

According to recently retired ICRISAT director general Dr. William Dar, who just completed an unprecedented three-terms spanning 15 years as head of  the India-based ICRISAT, Gov. Padilla plans to enlist the cooperation of Smart and Globe to implement an ICT innovations for agriculture program specially created by ICRISAT’s IT expert Dr. Dileepkumar Guntuku.

Gov. Padilla had recently visited ICRISAT’s facilities in this southern Indian province to learn about the science-based work being done by ICRISAT which could be used and applied to help Nueva Vizcaya’s farmers.

Additionally, Dr. Dar said, Gov. Padilla also expressed keen interest in ICRISAT’s irrigation system called Bhoochetana that would help address farm water requirements especially during the dry summer months.

Dr. Guntuku and his team in ICRISAT have developed a Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) program that is aimed at transforming research results into data, information and education services that could be shared to smallholder farmers through the quickest and latest technology offered by cellphones and tablets with the growing availability of broadband services even in rural areas.

According to Dr. Guntuku, who is fondly tagged as ICRISAT’s own Bill Gates, the traditional means of disseminating agricultural data, information and assistance through agricultural extension workers has shown its limitations in reaching smallholders farmers located in a widespread area and in a timely manner.

On the other hand, with the increasing  availability of cellphones and tablets and broadband services in rural and even remote areas, research data and information gathered by ICRISAT could now be more easily shared with farmers.

Through several platforms, Dr. Guntuku explained, ICRISAT could share open data and knowledge solutions as well as ICT-mediated extension systems and capacity building activities.

Farmers could access ICRISAT’s research and data primarily through KSIConnect-http://ksiconnect.icrisat.org/ – which highlight the most interesting projects, cutting edge research and fascinating success stories in the form of open information and education video resources, face-to-face virtual training and learning sessions and virtual expert-farmer interactions.

Talks by experts are also live streamed and recorded for offline viewing.

An AgEd Open Courseware platform offers a research infused curriculum providing lifelong learning opportunities to students, faculty members, extension agents and smallholder farmers.

Likewise KSI also offers farmers and other stakeholders its open access and open data repositories which hold numerous publication and records and enable access to open data to the global community.

The Green Phablet powered by the Green SIM is an ICT mediated extension system (with mobile and web apps, voice advisory services, participatory video extension methods) which brings out the best of affordable technologies, knowledge solution, availability of quality inputs, credit and insurance at the doorstep of smallholder farmers.

However, the Green SIM and Green Phablet, Dr. Guntuku emphasized, must be anchored on a public-private partnership that would involve private telcos, the government, NGOs, civil society organizations and the smallholder farmers.

Inang Lupa

With his retirement from ICRISAT as of Dec. 31, 2014, Dr. Dar is now hoping to bring his knowledge and 15 years of experience in ICRISAT to the Philippines and help transform the agriculture sector.

Losing no time at all, Dr. Dar has already set up a social advocacy group called Inang Lupa or Mother Earth, that would help draft an agriculture roadmap that could hopefully be implemented sometime in the future.

Joining forces with Dr. Dar in Inang Lupa are Vicente “Sonny” Domingo and  Dr. Zosimo Battad, with a council of advisers that include Tony Meloto and Dr. Santiago Obien.

Inang Lupa’s four pillars, Dr. Dar said, would be inclusive, resilient, science-based and market-oriented agriculture.

In drafting an agriculture roadmap, Dr. Dar stressed the need to ask the question if farmers are benefitting from the economic growth.

Additionally, he also sees the need to work with legislators in crafting or revising laws that would make agriculture truly inclusive.

A consultative process, likewise, Dr. Dar said, is also crucial to include the farmers’ inputs.





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