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History of Extension and the Enabling / Disabling Environment for Extension in the Philippines 

Sometime during the 333-year colonization of the Philippines by Spain from 1521 to 1854, the Spanish missionaries established “model farms” (Granjas Modelos), which were later turned into “settlement farm schools”. In 1902, the United States established the Bureau of Agriculture, within which the Division of Demonstration and Extension Service was created in 1910. The Division was later expanded to cover farmers’ cooperatives, rural credit and animal insurance. Although Bureau of Plant Industry and Bureau of Anima Industry were created in 1929 yet the Division of Demonstration and Extension Service stayed within the former bureau. In 1936, under the Commonwealth Act No. 85, the government established the provincial extension service along with the staff comprising provincial agricultural extension supervisors and municipal agricultural inspectors.

Context

The Philippines is an archipelago Southeast Asian country comprising 7,107 islands located in the western Pacific Ocean. The country is prone to frequent earthquakes and typhoons due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Its islands enjoy vast natural resources and very high levels of biodiversity. The population of the Philippines is 94,852,030 (2011), growing at a rate of 1.8 percent per year. Philippines’ capital is Manila.

The country is divided into three island groups namely Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The island groups are divided into 16 regions, which are sub-divided into 79 provinces. Within all the provinces are 114 cities, 1,496 municipalities, and 41,939 barangays (smallest administrative divisions). Most of the mountainous islands are covered by tropical rainforest. The climate is tropical, warm and humid with distinct dry season (November to May) and wet season (June to October). Mismanagement, environmental pollution and high population are the cause of widespread poverty. The Asian financial crisis of 1997 also affected the Philippines economy.

Although the Philippines is gradually transforming  into an industrialized nation yet, basically, it is still an agricultural country, with about one third of its population living in rural areas. The agriculture sector comprises farming, fisheries, forestry and livestock. It employs close to 39.8 percent of the country’s work force, and its contribution to the GDP is about 20 percent. The sector has suffered from low public investment, especially in the area of irrigation systems, sustained low productivity levels, costly farm inputs, and lately increased frequency of typhoons and flooding. Such problems and lucrative prices being offered by real estate developers has tempted a large number of poor farmers into selling their cultivable lands, which have been converted into golf courses, resorts and building complexes. Deforestation and excessive application of chemical farm inputs have caused environment problems. The government has tried to modernize the agriculture sector through the Agricultural Fisheries Modernization Act (1997) and the Medium Term Agricultural Development Plan (2001-2004).


The usual size of landholding is about 2.16 hectares, which has been declining in recent years. Crops, fruits, vegetables, poultry and swine are common features of farms. Main crops are rice, corn, coconut, sugarcane, bananas, pineapple, coffee, mangoes, tobacco, and abaca, and the secondary crops include peanut, cassava, camote, garlic, onion, cabbage, eggplant, calamansi, rubber, and cotton. Commercial agriculture operated by large plantations covers coconuts, copra, sugarcane, tobacco, bananas and pineapples. Major agricultural and fishery exports comprise coconut oil, bananas, pineapple, tuna, seaweed and prawns. 



The government created the Bureau of Agricultural Extension (BAEx) in 1952 under the Republic Act No. 680, which integrated agricultural extension services of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The very next year, BAEx was given a mandate, upon recommendation of the Bell Commission, to implement an agricultural extension program covering farm management, home management and rural youth development. In 1963, under the Republic Act No. 3844 (known as the Land Reform Code), the BAEx was turned into the Commission on Agricultural Productivity, which functioned under the Office of the President. The Commission promoted both agricultural cooperatives and the land reform program. In 1967, under the Republic Act No. 5185 (known as the Decentralization Act), followed by the Executive Order No. 128 the next year, the responsibility for delivering agricultural extension services was handed over to the local government at a time when as many as 16 various government agencies were involved in extension activities.

During early 1970s, the Ministry of Agriculture appointed Regional Directors of Agriculture, delegating them substantial responsibilities. Community-based organizations were strengthened and agricultural extension staff focused on technology transfer for farming systems, institutional development and human resources development. In 1984, under the Executive Order No. 967, the Ministry of Agriculture was re-named as the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF), with the broad mandate of policy formulation for the development of crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries, implementation of projects and programs, and provision of various services including research and extension.

Since early 1990s, when the BAEx was devolved and responsibilities for extension were given to the Local Government Units (LGU), the public extension service has been seriously weakened. Extension constraints include a lack of recognition, absence of proper leadership, disparities in staff salaries due to differing economic status of municipalities, negligible operational funds, a lack of in-service training and career development, frequent political interferences, and absence of program impact assessment, leading to very low morale of the staff, something that most elected politicians find hard to realize. It is no surprise that the reversal of extension devolution is being debated, and one of the arguments is why should the responsibility for extension not be transferred from the LGUs to the provincial governments.

Presently, the Philippines has a pluralistic pattern of extension. The service-providers include central government, local government, academic institutions, NGOs, and private companies.

Donors’ assistance to the Philippines has been declining. In 2004, the official development assistance (ODA) was just € 722 million, with the top sector transport, followed by agriculture (€117.4 million). The European Union was the biggest donor. Other significant donors include Japan, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, AusAid, USAID, Germany, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

In terms of support to extension, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) implemented a two-year project TCP/PHI/0167 around 2002 which focused on strengthening the devolved agricultural extension services. Recent projects financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which primarily aim at reducing rural poverty and involve extension are: Rural Microenterprise Promotion Program (RuMEPP); Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP) with co-financing by the Asian Development Bank and the OPEC Fund for International Development; and Rapid Food Production Enhancement Program (RaFPEP) co-financed by the European Commission and FAO. The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also been assisting the Philippines in developing its agriculture, food and fishery sectors. There were cooperative activities in the area of extension as well.
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Andrea Bohn,
29/12/2010 10:05
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Andrea Bohn,
10/12/2010 11:41
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