LEGAZPI CITY โ€“ More than 9,000 rice farmers from the six provinces of the Bicol Region were able to graduate from the School-On-Air on Smart Rice Agriculture (SOA-SRA) program handled by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture.

In an interview on Thursday, Primalou Imperial, ATI-Bicol information service officer, said the latest to graduate were rice farmers from the province of Catanduanes.

The topics discussed included new technologies on significant commodities like rice, corn, high-value crops and organic agriculture.

“For three years we have already produced 9,500 graduates from the program. For 2021, we have 5,000 from five provinces — Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes. For 2022, we have 2,000 farmers from Albay and for 2023, we have 2,500 rice farmers from Catanduanes. The graduates received a certificate of participation and depending on the local government units (LGUs), they also received incentives,” Imperial said.

The 16 episodes of the radio-based learning program aired for four months with the aim to reach farmers in far-flung areas.

“It is played as a radio program on different local radio stations. To avail, a rice farmer must be a registered member of the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA). The advantage of registered members is they get a certificate from the agency. With the completion of the 16 episodes, the rice farmers are able to learn new skills, knowledge and information that they can use to update their methods in farming,” Imperial said.

She noted that the farmers undergo pre-test and post-test “so we can evaluate if they understand the topics discussed. As they get additional information it will also help the farmers increase their production,” Imperial said.

She said they continue to encourage farmers to enroll and be part of the school-on-air program of the DA. (PNA/By Connie Calipay)