Agri technicians in Davao just a text away

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 October) – Life may have become easier for farmers here since they no longer need to run to the City Agriculture Office in the heart of the city if they need assistance and updates.

Since mobile phones are already available even in the far-flung areas, agriculture technicians are now just a text away.

Leonardo Avila III, City Agriculture Office chief, claimed this city is the first in the country to use the short message service (SMS) called Infoboard to assist the farmers.

Avila said the implementation of the system is in partnership with Smart Communications as part of its corporate social responsibility.

He said they are using the technology in sending advisories to the farmers such as price updates on commodities and some important notices from the agriculture department.

Every month the CAO receives an average of 5,000 queries from farmers in the remote barangays, the official said.

Avila cited a case of caterpillar infestation in Calinan early this year, where one of the farmers sought their help through SMS.

“After we got the message, we immediately dispatched our field technician to the field to assist the farmer in containing the infestation. The immediate response prevented a further infestation to other crops,” he said.

Green caterpillar infestation must be contained at the initial stage because the insect multiplies very fast, he explained.

To be able to receive advisories and get immediate response from CAO, Avila advised farmers to manually register their Smart mobile phones with their field technicians.

“The registration is free. They can come to our office. The advisories we are sending them are also free. But if they will send inquiry to us, it’s just P1 per text message,” he said, saying the city has 50 technicians who are readily available to assist the farmers.

Since not all farmers in the far-flung areas have mobile phones, Avila said his office is still negotiating with Smart Communications to offer cheap mobile phones to farmers.

“This system is commonly used in schools and universities today. And I have a friend at the company, so I asked him if we can use the system for the farmers,” he said, adding the system was introduced to the farmers in November last year.

Around 3,000 farmers have already subscribed to the Infoboard, Avila said. (Keith Bacongco/ MindaNews)