Taking g-tech to the farmers

Taking g-tech to the farmers


In an interview with Geospatial World, Dr. Honorio Cruz Flameño discusses how the Department of Agriculture, Philippines is advancing use of geospatial technology

Dr. Honorio Cruz Flameño,  Space Technology Institute (STI), Vietnam Academy of Science & Technology
Dr. Honorio Cruz Flameño
IT Officer, Information Technology Center for Agriculture and Fisheries
Department of Agriculture, The Philippines

When did the Philippines Department of Agriculture start using geospatial technology in its activities?
The Department of Agriculture started using geospatial technologies in 1990 through a grant under Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It was implemented under the Soil Research Development Center of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management. The geospatial technologies infrastructure was established at the Integrated Soil Resources Information System (ISRIS) Division.

The Department of Agriculture realised that these technologies are important in delineating and zoning of agricultural areas as well as in any agricultural resources management activities.

What are the activities of the Department in which various geospatial technologies are used?
The Department utilises geospatial technology applications as a tool for agicultural resources planning and management by technical staff and researchers. The Department uses these technologies mainly for mapping of its various infrastructure projects like SWIP, Diversion Dams, Farm to Market Roads. It is also used for coastal resource mapping.

What is the source of the geospatial data required for these activities? How often is it updated?
In the case of Bureau of Soils & Water Management, primary data is usually from surveys and actual field data collection. Along with these activities, DA collects its own data and geographic location of infrastructure projects using GPS.

Updating of data depends on the urgency of data requirement for a specific study and investigation.

The agriculture sector employs more than one-third of the workforce but provides less than a fifth of the GDP. How is Philippines looking at using geospatial technology to enhance output from agriculture to increase its contribution to GDP and also improve incomes of the significant workforce employed in this activity?
To enhance the productivity of this sector through geospatial technology, the Philippines Department of Agriculture has embarked on a project called Unified and Enterprise Geospatial Information System (UEGIS).

Kindly tell us more about this project. What are its objectives?
UEGIS is an integration of spatial and non-spatial information – integration of bio-physical resources, infrastructure, investments and farmers’ information. It also involves establishment of Farmers’ Registry and Inventory of Agriculture and Fisheries Investments Database, updation of selected thematic maps and generation of Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZ) related decision maps.

The general objective of the UEGIS Project is to establish a geospatial database of agricultural resources information, agri-socio and agriculture/fisheries infrastructure and support services in GIS framework . Specifically, the UEGIS aims to

  • Provide precise/accurate mapping of the country’s agriculture and fisheries (A&F) resources using RS/GIS technologies; including crop suitability, inventory of public/private investments such as FMR, irrigations, warehouses, etc.
  • develop RS/GIS-based decision support systems for sustainable management of agricultural production areas at the national, regional, and local levels; e.g., crop suitability, vulnerability assessment, damage assessment due to extreme climatic events
  • improve institutional capacity/capability of the various DA RFUs, selected bureaus and attached agencies and regional centres with regard to the application of space technologies for informed decision making and intelligent planning
  • establish a reliable database of farmers and farm parcels to be used for more effective planning, programme design and monitoring of agriculture support services; and
  • to develop an integrated development plans (IDP) for the agriculture sector

What are its various applications and benefits?
The various applications and benefits of UEGIS include more precise/accurate spatial information for better planning and decision-making; improving service delivery of the Department of Agriculture and establishing database for the existing agriculture and fishery investment resources which eventually will be used to determine the gaps and/or needs of the sector. The project will also act as the basis for developing private/public partnerships (PPP) in meeting the needs of the agriculture sector; identify vulnerable areas in the light of climate change; help in A&F insurance claims assessment and provide more accurate A&F production forecasting/ prediction and markets. In addition, it is also aimed to contribute towards improved governance through monitoring and evaluation, characterising production environments, enhancing distribution network management for agribusiness and minimising risks of resource investment.

What is the status of the project?
The project is in varying stages of completion. We have completed the procurement and deployment of RS/GIS hardware and software, constructed/rehabilitated RS/GIS laboratory and awarded the contract for the procurement high resolution satellite imageries. Implementation of National Farmers Registry System (NFRS) is on-going in the provinces of Quezon, Leyte and Bukidnon. We are developing mapping standards and protocols. We have come up with a draft manual for GIS definitions, standards and codings for agriculture and fisheries (Adopting the IATFGI Manual). We have also conducted an inventory of GI projects/activities and data holdings for agriculture and fishery sector.

Through this initiative, the government aims to extend the benefits of geospatial information and technology to farmers.

Philippines Department of Agriculture has undertaken studies to evaluate the impact of climate change on agriculture in the Philippines. Is the Department considering using geospatial technology to counter these impacts?
Absulotely, a lot of efforts have been going on on climate change related activities, using geospatial technology as a tool .