Friday, June 25, 2010

Department of Agriculture partners with Nokia, WWF-Philippines on Farm Info Project

The Department of Agriculture (DA), leading cellular phone maker Nokia and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) are pioneering in the country the use of Nokia Data Gathering solution system, which will enable collection and sharing of critical data anytime and anywhere in the Philippines.

“The applications are practically boundless - from tracking regional temperatures to comparing provincial fish yields. Eventually we wish to apply the technology to health, agriculture, education, emergency services, census and so forth,” said Greg Elphinston, Corporate Social Investment Director of Nokia Finland. “Nokia E71 mobile phones with Nokia Data Gathering solution systems will now be deployed in 100 pre-identified areas. Our ambition is to service all 1,500 Philippine municipalities within a decade.”

The Nokia Data Gathering solution system and its initial outputs will be presented to a six-country Coral Triangle conference in Manila this September.

Nokia, DA and WWF officials are hoping that the technology will be adopted soon by other government agencies and private organizations.

In Manaus, Brazil, the software had greatly helped the Brazilian Ministry of Health to fight back dengue fever. Nokia Data Gathering solutions allowed Brazilian provinces to craft effective response strategies using data that established both the epidemic’s extent and the responses to treatment.

“If it can be used to avert outbreaks,” said WWF-Philippines CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, “it can also be used to avert a looming food crisis brought about by climate change.”

Rice is the staple food in the Philippines, where upwards of four million hectares are devoted to cultivation.
Overpopulation, droughts, storms, wasteful processing methods plus the uneven cost of seeds and fertilizer have hurt local production, forcing the government to import a part of the nation’s rice needs.

“We are trying to develop realistic solutions to this problem,” said DA Secretary Bernie Fondevilla. “However, the current wave of climate change impacts - from massive droughts spawned by the El NiƱo phenomenon to more destructive typhoons - has greatly hampered our efforts.”

“Nokia Data Gathering solution systems will augment and eventually replace our data-gathering systems so we can concentrate on crafting programs and solutions to further boost farm yields despite the erratic weather patterns,” he said.

Regularly updated market supply-and-demand data will lead to the swift analysis of basic agricultural commodities such as rice, coconuts, meat and vegetables.

“The Philippines is an archipelago with over 1,500 municipalities, most of which are separated by water,” Fondevilla said. “Tracking each area’s grain and water distribution, monitoring productivity and market prices - all in real-time – pose a huge logistical challenge to the DA,” said Fondevilla. “The lack of fresh data often hampers the decisions and policies we so badly need.”

Concluded Tan, “What separates fantasy from reality is Human imagination. By pioneering data gathering technology, Nokia, the DA and WWF are allowing our generation to look for realistic solutions to farm woes. Now that’s connecting people.”

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