, JANUARY 1, 2007
  (STAR) By Rudy A. Fernandez - And now, there are 212 of them from Batanes to Basilan.

These are Farmers’ Information and Technology Services (FITS) centers set up across the country to provide the IT needs of people in the countryside to boost their livelihood activities.

A FITS center is a one-stop information shop that provides farmers, entrepreneurs, traders, processors, and other stakeholders with quick access to location-specific agricultural information services.

The services include information and technologies in multimedia forms, exhibits of new technologies, IEC (information, education, communication) materials, and Internet access.

The FITS centers enable clients to have access to quality planting materials and animal stocks, technology training and clinic, technical assistance, forum, support for enterprise development, and linkages.

The FITS centers, now popularly known as Techno Pinoy, are a component of the Techno Gabay Program (TGP), the banner program on technology transfer and research and development (R&D) utilization of the Los Baños-based Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD).

The 212th FITS center was set up in Calamba, Misamis Occidental, said PCARRD executive director Patricio Faylon.

Dr. Bessie Burgos, director of PCARRD’s Technology Outreach Program Division (TOPD), said the FITS centers are based at or hosted by local government units (67 percent), state colleges and universities (19 percent), Department of Agriculture (16 percent), DOST provincial S&T centers, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and non-government organizations (NGOs).

The FITS centers are supported by farmer-scientists (magsasaka-siyentista) or successful farmers and farmer-leaders whose farms showcase "best practices." They share their technologies and practices with other farmers through demonstration, training, and farmer-to-farmer advisory services.

The FITS centers have been of great help to people in the countryside, as found in a PCARRD study conducted in Bacarra in Ilocos Norte, Alfonso Lista in Ifugao, and La Trinidad in Benguet. The sites primarily produce rice, corn, and semi-temperate vegetables.

"The TGP interventions not only resulted in significant increases in output, but in farm income as well," the study noted.

PCARRD also reported that because of the viability of the TGP, it is now part of the national extension strategy, as reflected in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan.

The FITS program has also been considerably complemented by a new government undertaking that enables farmers to have access to the Internet’s vast information on agriculture.

The Knowledge Networking Toward Enterprising Agricultural Communication Program (K-Agrinet) is a collaborative venture of PCARRD, DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).

Faylon said K-Agrinet aims to use information technology as a tool to fast-track the dissemination of agriculture and natural resources information and technologies to farmers, upland dwellers, and rural entrepreneurs.

K-Agrinet has four components being carried out individually by its institutional proponents.

PCARRD handles the e-Consortia and e-Farm projects; DA-PhilRice, through its Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture (OPAPA), the e-learning component; and DAR and DAP, the e-agriculture aspect.

The e-Consortia and e-Farm, according to PCARRD, are expected to enable electronic access to information technology and other services in 80 FITS centers in strategic parts of the country in partnership with the 14 PCARRD-coordinated government regional R&D consortia.

The e-Farm component focuses on establishing the FITS’ online connectivity, enabling databases and other ICT applications via the Web, strengthening the capability of FITS staffers and other extension workers, pushing PCARRD’s magsasaka-siyentista and small and medium enterprises toward e-commerce, and expanding market linkages through e-trade.

The e-Learning component, led by DA-PhilRice’s OPAPA, focuses on extension and distance learning for agricultural extension workers.

The e-Agriculture component, led by DAR and DAP, mobilizes agrarian reform communities into the program.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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