Texting helps agricultural exchanges, say experts

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philrice-text-center The use of short message service (SMS) allows an alternate and easier route for farmers in obtaining agricultural information, according to Dr. Ronan G. Zagado, development communicator at PhilRice. Zagado explained that aside from being a social communication medium, SMS is also used massively in agriculture. ?The PhilRice Text Center (PTC) is a good example of this. From merely 11 text messages in 2006 to more than 100,000 SMS queries in 2010,? he said. PTC provides information in the form of farm advisories, technology updates, market information, how-to?s, and other farm insights. Texters, predominantly farmers, consult to PTC in every cropping season and even during fallow period. These information provided by PTC translates into additional income for farmers, as well. In a study conducted by PhilRice development communicator Hazel V. Antonio in 2011, the use of SMS in getting agricultural information could give up to P39,730 additional income. In a study titled ?Texting as a discursive approach for the production of agricultural solutions? by Zagado and Michael Wilmore of the University of Adelaide, the meaning of agricultural knowledge varies and depends on its use to the user or client. An example of this is the meaning of rice variety. As reported, ?which rice variety to grow? was the most frequently asked topic received by the PTC. ?Varietal recommendations will vary depending on farmers? requirements relating to yield potential, pest resistance, varietal maturity, location, and eating quality,? Zagado said. Zagado said SMS now provides an entirely different view and process of agricultural extension particularly in the production and distribution of agricultural knowledge. Several factors play vital role in this process such as content, clarity, length, timing and cultural factors. Queries received within working days from 8am to 5pm get speedy response. As for the content of the message, it is preferred if it is shorter and easier messages receive faster reply. It is advised to make queries concise and direct to the point, and send it during office hours to receive faster response. Longer messages or difficult queries may take longer time for the operator of the PTC to respond. While texting has indeed provided an alternate route in getting agricultural knowledge, Zagado stressed, improvements can still be made to make it more effective. Capacity enhancement for extension workers on how to optimize SMS-ing in their work is in the right direction, he said. Zagado?s thesis on ?Human Agency, Power and Discourse: Accomplishing Farm Work through Short Messaging Service (SMS) in the Philippines? received the Thesis Excellence Award at the University of Adelaide. ? PIA ]]>

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