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Agri project redesigns measures amid virus

A United States Department of Agriculture project whose main goal is to improve coffee production has come up with measures that will allow its main beneficiaries, the coffee farmers, cope with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic at the same time ensure the continuity of its support to them.

In an electronic mail, Terence John Ryan, chief of party of the Philippine Co­ffee Advancement and Farm Enterprise (PhilCAFE) project, said it has redesigned its program to adapt to the situation and ensure that its beneficiaries stick to protocols like physical distancing even when they go about their activities related to the project.

“We have redesigned some of our program approaches to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and developed a training design that will facilitate learning in rural areas while observing the recommended physical distancing guidelines,” said Ryan, whose project has been implemented by the Agricultural Cooperative Development International/ Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA), an international organization that promotes, among others, business opportunities in agriculture.

Among the innovations that have been included in the training design which will be made available this month, said Ryan, are using radio broadcast and developing guided electronic learning materials that will use social media as platforms.

“We partner with several state colleges and universities in our regular programming and we will involve them in the roll-out of this new training design to ensure continuity of this initiative,” he said.

The rationale behind this approach is to ensure that coffee farmers remain healthy amid the pandemic as this will also allow them to continue learning and implement the lessons which are part of the good agricultural practices in coffee production.

The technology that will be provided to them will also allow them to properly manage their farms, including nursers, as this will equip them with better technologies in raising the quality and volume of their production.

The training will tap radio broadcast, video streaming on social media platform and
“family-based remote training with identified coffee mentors – seasoned coffee farmers who have gained extensive experience in coffee production and have undergone thorough training from PhilCAFE project.”

“Modules for the radio broadcasts will be pre-recorded, translated in local dialects, and will be aired through partner local radio stations. The PhilCAFE team will assign coffee production experts who will host the radio program and facilitate distance learning through a series of broadcasts,” he said.

He said ACDI/VOCA has produced video materials promoting good agricultural practices in coffee farming that will be used for the approached as this will be uploaded to social media platforms

.The whole-family training approach, he explained, will allow a member or two of a family that is into coffee farming to attend a training in a farming community where they will also be provided with time to visit the farms, modules that will spell out necessary technical knowhow that promote coffee farming as well as ways on how the crop can be integrated in other crops and other mechanisms that will help them increase the value of their crop in terms of volume and quality.

The approach, he added, will also require those who will attend the farm activities to observe protocols like physical distancing.

Aside from coffee farmers, the redesigned training module will also include online brewing demonstrations, which will also tap social media platforms, to help the stakeholders of the coffee industry.

“We continue to exert all possible efforts to keep our staff and project stakeholders safe from the dangers of Covid-19 pandemic, while pursuing our targets and deliverables particularly among coffee farmers who are affected by the current situation,” concluded Ryan.

Ian B. Asilo, chair of the Davao City Coffee Council, said that there is a need for coffee farmers to improve their knowledge in farming because of the increasing demand in specialty coffee, coffee variants that command better prices in the market because they undergo production processes that use better processes from the farms to the brewing machines.

Asilo said that improving production, which will in turn improve the value of the produce, will infuse a renewed interest

In the 1970s, he said, coffee production was among the agricultural activities in the region, but because of the cheap prices, it went down and saw about 17,000 hectares in coffee farms converted to other activities like banana production.

“It is about time that we improve our production as our coffee has started getting recognition,” said Mr. Asilo, referring to several awards that some local farmers have received, including those they won abroad.

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