TO reduce poverty and achieve food security, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will maximize the full potentials of family farms and promote digital or “precision” agriculture.
DA Secretary William Dar said these are the priorities of the department which aim to continuously empower vulnerable groups — smallholder farmers, fisherfolk, rural women, the youth, and farm families, in general – by providing them the needed technical, marketing and financial support.
This was the assurance made by Dar during the first-ever virtual meeting of the 35th United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC35), held on Sept. 1 to 4, 2020, hosted by the Kingdom of Bhutan.
This year’s regional conference was attended by respective ministers of agriculture, fisheries, livestock, environment, and rural industries from 46 FAO Asia-Pacific member-countries, civil society organizations, and the private sector. Globally, the FAO has to date 194 member-countries.
“Now, more than ever, we should reinforce this by teaching farm families to take advantage of data-driven or digital agriculture to further increase their productivity and incomes,” added Dar, who was elected vice-chairperson of the ministerial conference of the APRC35.
He also thanked FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for leading the implementation of the UN Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF) 2019 to 2028.
Dar said smallholders and family farmers deserve the focus during FAO discussions and programs, as they produce over 80 percent of the world’s food in value terms, and play a vital role in achieving food security and improving nutrition.
“We are grateful to all partners and stakeholders actively advocating for family farmers’ welfare and interests and their critical role in achieving the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
The UNDFF is an offshoot of a UN policy, declaring 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming” (IYFF). The Philippines filed the IYFF resolution in 2011 before the FAO, which endorsed it to the UN general assembly. With the Philippines as co-sponsor, the “decade of family farming” was officially declared by the UN in 2017.
The UNDFF recognizes and supports the major contribution of family and smallholder farming in eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving food security, and improving nutrition through sustainable food production and countryside development.
“In terms of precision agriculture and digital technology, the Department of Agriculture is fast-tracking the development of a digital roadmap for the agri-fishery sector. We aim to integrate digital technologies in the food value chain and logistics, benefiting both producers and consumers,” said Dar.
To date, the DA aims to have real-time access to ICT-driven crop production and risk and damage assessment information with the use of drones and a dynamic cropping calendar.
Recently, the DA-ICTS installed a “dashboard” at the office of the secretary (OSEC), where real-time and updated information are flashed on the screen — like farmers’ registry, farm machineries distributed, and farm-to-market roads constructed, among other infrastructure and major DA initiatives. These form part of Dar’s “finger-tip” information that is updated daily.
Likewise, the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) manages an ICT data inventory and mapping system to enhance its data collection system.
The DA is also pursuing partnerships with the private sector, civil society, and international research institutions to digitalize Philippine agriculture.
Finally, SDar also cited the case of “IT giant” Microsoft, together with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), which he led for 15 years.
Microsoft and ICRISAT developed an IT sowing app that enables smallholder subsistence farmers to receive precision agro-advisories based on the weather and other parameters.