The third day started early in the morning with a trip to the northern area of Metro Manila, where we had our first meeting at PCCARD (The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development) in Los Banos, Laguna. The location goes very well with the institution specific – beautiful nature surroundings.
We were welcomed by the Executive Director, Mr Patricio S. Faylon and by a part of his staff that gave us a presentation of PCCARD and its main objectives and activities.
PCCARD is one of the five sectoral councils under the Department of Science and Technology, and was created to set and coordinate the directions of the country’s research and development programs in agriculture, forestry and natural resources. One of PCCARD’s banner programs is called Techno Gabay Program, or TGP, which aims to bring science-based information and technology services to end-users in the agriculture, forestry and natural resources sectors.
Thus, TGP involves a cluster of sectors, like the private sector, NGOs, Local Government Units, research and development institutions, etc. Through TGP’s four components, FITS (Farmer Information Technology Services).
The FITS serves as a one-stop service facility accessible to the majority of farmers, entrepreneurs, and other clients in a given area. FITS is basically a telecentre that offers specific services to farmers, services that are based on information and technology. The information services refer at technology information in multimedia formats, exhibitions of new technologies and products, internet access, SMS and FITS database. The second type, technology services are represented by technology training, technology clinic, linking clients to experts and financial institutions, technical assistance and consultancy, support to enterprise development, and others.
There are almost 500 FITS centres in the Philippines that are hosted and/or supported by local host agencies. These agencies could be LGUs or NGOs and they need to commit at sustaining the operational costs of the center. This way, the sustainability matter is covered.
One of FITS methodologies is to work with so called “Scientist Farmers” as examples of good practice for others. This scientist farmer is a successful farmer that is selected from the community to play the role of a resource person during technology trainings, providing technical assistance to other farmers and promoting the Science and Technology based farms.
I am becoming more and more aware of the importance of ICT use and innovation in all governmental institutions and strategies. eTesda and TGP (FITS) are two models of how ICT can be exploited, and be translated into huge benefits for communities.
After lunch we headed to one of the FITS center, which is supported directly by the Agriculture Department. The FITS center from Lipa works mainly with farmers and students. The center seems to provide a relaxed and peaceful place where farmers can access a library of resources, computers with internet connectivity and discussions with scientist farmers. More than that, they can link to other farmers from across the country, using the FITS database.
The interaction with center’s staff made me realize how important are the services for community and the huge impact it has on target groups.