A life’s dream, realized


Family farmer-turned-government expert helps other farmers

Rebillaco in the field during a drone training and mapping project in Pampanga province, part of the area known as the “rice bowl” of the Philippines. ©FAO/Veejay Villafranca

Lowell Rebillaco grew up on a family farm in the Philippines.

“When I was a child I dreamed of helping not just my family but, our neighbours, who are also farmers,” Rebillaco says. “I want to help them by improving their farm productivity so that they have more income and better access to basic necessities such as health, education, markets and can afford little bit of leisure.”

As a Department of Agriculture employee, he uses innovative tools such as drones, his technical expertise in data management and project evaluation to help other farmers improve their work.   This includes advising farmers on better cropping techniques and developing reports on vegetation, crop health and, in the event of natural calamities, assessing damage to crops and livestock from floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and pests.

Rebillaco is also involved in a joint FAO-Department of Agriculture project that uses state-of-the-art drone technology to develop reports on crop size and health and speed up the process of determining the extent of damage to farmers’ crops in the event of natural disasters.   

Left: The information from the drones is used to develop reports on the extent and health of vegetation and, in the event of natural disasters, damage. ©FAO/Veejay Villafranca. Right: Rebillaco (R) and FAO Emergency Coordinator Abet Aduna discussing data on flood damage from recent monsoon rains. ©FAO/Veejay Villafranca

“The Philippines has almost 20 typhoons every year, so our farmers experience losses from calamities. This drone program has changed our work because it lessens the time spent in the validation of the total damage caused.”

Fixed-wing drones can cover up to 200 hectares in just thirty minutes, while one person can survey roughly seven hectares a day. The images can be used to address a variety of conditions, including flooding and pest infestation and, in some cases, to lessen the impact of such threats by timing harvests appropriately. Another example is the use of drone-generated information to design irrigation canals.

“Now that I am in the Department of Agriculture, I have the opportunity to help our farmers,” says Agriculturist Lowell Rebillaco. ©FAO/Veejay Villafranca

While Rebillaco has been able to use his expertise to help other farmers and also improve his own farming, he says that local farmers often strengthen the government’s work by sharing their own knowledge and expertise.

“The average age of most of our farmers is 57, so the average time they have spent in farming is more or less 30 years. We’ve learned a lot from them because they're more experienced than us.” He says he wants his own children to continue the tradition.

By working with governments to share technology and knowledge, FAO is empowering them to take action and be a part of the global goal to achieve Zero Hunger.


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