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MAASIN CITY, Mar. 2 (PIA) -- The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in close coordination with the Department of Agriculture (DA) is reaching out to rice farmers in the countryside, offering them skills training to improve production.

In Southern Leyte, some 75 rice farmers have already availed of TESDA’s Rice Extension Services Program (RESP) in the province last year, 25 of them enrolled at Bendever Farm Agri-Eco Tourism in Sogod, and the other 50 at Mercedes Upland Farmers Association in Silago.

“The RESP which is under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) in support of the Rice Tarrification Law is expected to continue this year with a proposed allocation of P7.9 million for Southern Leyte,” said Jed Paolo Cairo, head of provincial operations at the provincial TESDA office.

Happy Farm in Macrohon town has been added to the other two farming schools to cater to enrollees this year, Cairo said during a live Kapihan forum in February, adding that slots are still open for those interested.

Main purpose of the RESP skills training for farmers is to widen their knowledge in producing high quality, in-breed seeds and improved harvests, introduction to farm mechanization, and enticing the young to embrace farming as a passion and profession, Cairo said, noting that some participants were in their 40s and 30s.

In a follow-up phone interview today, Cairo said eight local government units in the province were targeted as among the priority areas for the skills training this year, and these include Sogod, Maasin, Malitbog, Hinunangan, Hinundayan, Saint Bernard, Bontoc, and Macrohon.

According to a TESDA website report, the training courses are as follows: Farmer Field School for 14 days, 4-5 months; Rice Machinery Operation (RMO) NC II; Drying and Milling Plant Servicing NC III for 32 days; Solar Powered Irrigation System Operation and Maintenance NC II; and Small Engine Servicing (Certificate of Competency) for 18 days.

“Data from TESDA Scholarship Management Division - Regional Operations Management Office (SMO-ROMO) shows that TESDA Eastern Visayas has the biggest number of scholarships benefitting 3,363 rice farmers,” the TESDA website report stated. (ldl/mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)