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IRRI and DA reach more farmers through cluster approach

  • IRRI and DA-ATI launched CLeveR, an initiative to provide farmers with tailored solutions through their cluster leaders.
  • In 2024, two provinces will participate in this initiative. Objectives include optimizing interview process efficiency, enhancing the reach and uptake of nutrient management recommendations, and exploring evidence-based innovation packages for scaling cluster-based nutrient management recommendations.

RCMAS has a proven track record of improving farmers’ yields by optimizing farming practices. However, reaching more farmers to disseminate the technology has been a tedious and time-consuming process for Agriculture Extension Workers (AEWs).

Since 2014, the Rice Crop Manager Advisory System (RCMAS) has been helping farmers improve their crop management practices. This effort has reached more than 2.6 million farmers in the Philippines and generated 3.3 million recommendations on precision agriculture, which helped empower their decision-making. However, disseminating the technology has been challenging due to the time-consuming approach of one-on-one interviews between the farmer and agriculture extension workers.

To make the approach more streamlined, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI), teamed up on a project that aims to enhance the delivery and reach of improved nutrient management recommendations from the Rice Crop Manager Advisory System (RCMAS). Called  "Leveraging Farmer Groups: Accelerating Reach and Uptake of Better Nutrient Management by Farmers at cluster levels (CLeveR)", the project will provide farmer clusters with tailored solutions through just one interview with their cluster leader. Similarities of practices considered in 1 recommendation for many include a water source, crop establishment method, variety type, growth duration, seedling age, sowing month, harvest method, and yield level.

A pilot study was done in 2023 where IRRI tested the performance of cluster-based nutrient management recommendations against traditional farmer fertilizer practices (FP) in the Rizal province. The results showed that cluster-based recommendations led to higher yields than traditional practices.

To build on this in 2024, the project will be implemented in three major rice municipalities in Bohol, where it will optimize the interview process, enhance the reach and uptake of nutrient management recommendations, and explore evidence-based innovation packages for scaling cluster-based nutrient management recommendations.

Based on the uptake result of RCMAS in Bohol, IRRI proposes the following: 1) on-farm demonstrations where comparisons between farmer practice and Cluster-Based Nutrient Management Recommendations (CBNMR) will be conducted, 2) data collection on yield, rice prices, fertilizer costs, and added net, and 3) test the deployment of cluster-based recommendations to maximize efficiency and impact.

Capacity enhancement of partners and stakeholders is also a key component of the strategy. IRRI will provide lectures and Q&A portions about nutrient management practices to empower local actors to implement and disseminate the recommendations effectively.
The IRRI team, led by Rowena Castillo, Manager - Project Development and Deployment visited the Bohol Agricultural Promotions Center (BAPC), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), and farmers' associations namely: CARLIM Irrigators Association,  MAMAMIA (Mahayag, Mahayag, Malitbog Irrigator’s Association )and GHP (Gabi, Hambabauran, Pag-asa) Fortunate Farmer’s Irrigator’s Association in Bohol to provide the overview and expected outputs and outcomes of the project. The team also commenced the profiling of farmers' irrigators associations and provided recommendations through interviews with the farmer leaders.

“We hope that this project will help farmers in Bohol, especially since in recent years, we have been experiencing a decrease in yield”, said Angel Enriquez, Regional Executive Director, Department of Agriculture, Regional Field Office VII.