THE Department of Agriculture in Region 11 (DA-11) has tapped experts to build-up content of its School-on-the-Air (SOA) program for cacao production.
Renowned cacao-production expert Peter Cruz has joined DA “farmcaster” Antonio Arquio Jr. in discussing the cacao-production module during the SOA aired over its daily radio program.
Cruz is the technical manager of Kennemer Foods International, a leading buyer of cacao beans for domestic and export markets. He handles the company’s production and crop protection division and trains a technical group consisting of cacao doctors, field technicians and nursery supervisors.
“SOA bridges the knowledge gap between industry experts and farmers, especially those in the remote areas where they could hardly be reached by the technicians. It has also served as a channel for us in the private sector to share not only our technologies but also our advocacy of encouraging our farmers to produce quality cacao beans,” Cruz said.
“Even off the air I am receiving several text messages from various listeners inquiring on several topics such as fertilizer application, pruning, and disease control. What touches me is being reconnected with farmers I used to work with when I was still a technician in Davao City and previous private engagements,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rodolfo Estigoy of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) also shared postharvest technologies in cacao production. He said PhilMech has developed several postharvest technologies that could reduce losses and ensure quality of cacao beans.
These technologies include improved greenhouse-type solar dryer and the development of sensor devices for quality cacao measurement.
“Greenhouse-type solar dryer ensures production of quality cacao beans due to uninterrupted drying, which also reduces drying time from six to four days. The sensor devices, on the other hand, will help avoid low-quality cacao beans and reduce defects during processing,” Estigoy said.
Improving technical content of SOA module was in keeping with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s goal to conduct SOA over the radio to disseminate information faster to farmers.
The SOA on Cacao Production also complements the distribution of cacao seedlings to farmer-beneficiaries under the Cacao Double-Up Program of DA-High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP). Topics covered include good agricultural practices from planting, pruning, pests and diseases management, and harvesting, including postharvest technologies.
“We need to ensure that seedling beneficiaries will observe appropriate technologies. Thus, we require training on cacao production as one of our requirement. However, those in the remote areas have difficulty in attending trainings. The SOA is the fastest, cheapest way of communicating technologies with wider reach,” HVCDP Regional Coordinator Melani Provido said.
For years now, the DA information section regularly conducts SOA with an average of 2,000 farmer-enrollees. This year three SOA programs have been lined up with modules on Good Agricultural Practices on cacao production, rice production and climate change, and corn and cassava production.