The Farmers? Text Center (FTC) based at Philippine Rice Research Institute, answered a total of 72,611 text messages from 2006 to 2009 with an average of 50 texts per day enhancing the delivery of agricultural information to farmers and extension workers, a study revealed.
Stoix Nebin Pascua, lead author of the paper titled, Enhancing Knowledge Networking through Short Messaging Service: The Farmers? Text Center Experience of the Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture (OpAPA), said the results show the importance of short messaging service (SMS) in the delivery of agriculture information.
Pascua said the increasing trend in SMS received yearly implies the great potential of wireless technology in enhancing knowledge exchange between and among the experts, extension workers, farmers, and other stakeholders despite distance.
?Using their own or borrowed cellular phones, farmers and extension workers just text their queries or requests for information on rice production problem to the PhilRice?s Farmers? Text Center at 0920-911-1398 at P1.00 per text only from all networks,? Pascua said.
From only 2,879 SMS received in 2006, texts queries jumped to 13,267 in 2007 while an 86.37 percent increase was marked for 2007 and 2008 data. In 2008 and 2009, SMS totaled 24,727 and 31,738, respectively.
From 11 text messages during its launch in August 2004, FTC now receives an average of about 3,000 messages a month this year.
For four years since 2006, varieties and seeds ranked first as the most asked topic, followed by integrated pest management and integrated nutrient management.
Study also revealed that farmers text the FTC more frequently than the extension workers from 2006 to 2008. Farmers said they use SMS because it is cheap, easy to use, and mobile.
Furthermore, results revealed that the ?Thank you or congratulatory? messages received from the texters are important feedbacks in determining whether FTC satisfies and responds to the needs of the clients.
The paper, adjudged as best paper during the 23rd National Rice Research and Development Conference and 40th Scientific Conference and Anniversary of the Crop Science Society of the Philippines ,was co-authored with Ronan Zagado, Olive Rose Asis, Oliver Domingo, and Jennylene? Maloles of OPAPA.
Zagado, former program director of OPAPA, said inadequate access to new rice production technologies is a major constraint to increased rice productivity.
?The delivery of agricultural information is difficult and trying as Philippine agricultural extension system is fragmented and dispersed owing to the Devolution of Powers Act not to mention the archipelagic geography of the country,? he explained.
He added that the county is also limited with the number of agricultural extension workers ? only about 25,000 nationwide ? who need to reach out to the country?s over 2.5 million farmers.
In responding to the needs of the farmers, Gloria Diata, a subscriber from Oriental Mindoro said she is grateful for the techno tips sent by the FTC. She hopes that FTC project will continue to reach and help more farmers.
Meanwhile, Sanny Huelva of Masbate said, ?Thank you for sending technology updates, I had a good harvest.?
FTC is one of the project components of OPAPA, a coalition of various government agencies that aims to explore ICT applications in the Philippine Agriculture with PhilRice as the lead agency.
With an operation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, FTC aims to answer queries of farmers and other clients on rice and rice-based farm productions, send technology updates to farmers and other clients, and link farmers and clients to markets through text messaging.
To receive free rice techno tips, register to the Farmers? Text Center by typing REG (space) Name, Age, Address, Occupation and it send to 09209111398. To send your message, just type your question and send it to the same number. MMS or photos and videos can also be sent through 09395099698 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DA-PhilRice is a government-owned and ?controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.
For more information, please visit or contact DA-PhilRice at Maligaya, Science City of Mu?oz, Nueva Ecija with telephone number (044) 456-0285 loc 511/512 or any PhilRice station near you. You may also visit their website at www.philrice.gov.ph or text your questions to 0920-911-1398.