Filipino farmer not a dying breed
The Top 3 finalists at the 2019 Gawad Saka Search for Outstanding Young Farmer/Fisherfolk, organized by the Department of Agriculture, prove that the Filipino farmer is not a dying breed.
There is Armando delos Santos, 25, from Isabela. He graduated from a technical-vocational course but couldn’t find a job in Manila, so he returned home to tend to the family land. He joined the local 4-H Club, which helps develop the agriculture and fisheries industries in the area, and it turned out to be a life-changing decision.
He is now rehabilitating the family’s once forested 3.5-hectare land and has converted it into an integrated and diversified farm where rice, corn and vegetables thrive abundantly despite the difficult terrain. His opportunity was there all along, he said; what he needed was only the right mindset.
Junie Awa, 24, from Agusan del Norte, did not have land to begin with; his family had no capital to buy one. He was also not able to go to college. He remains a tenant of a piece of land on top of a knoll, but his sitaw, cucumber and ampalaya bring him at least P100,000 in income per cropping cycle despite the difficult water and erratic weather in his locality. Junie sought the help of and joined the local 4-H Club, where he received training on agricultural technologies. He plans to buy his own land someday.
Nomer Mortega, 24, from Sorsogon, had both land and the sea since his farm was located near the shoreline. This location brought him both promises and challenges. He took advantage of the rich seawater and put up ponds for fish, shrimp and mud crab production; and he planted vegetables in containers and sacks to protect the plants from high tide. He also maximized his backyard by generating income from the coconut and fruit trees that were planted there.
Unlike Armando and Junie, Nomer had graduated from college, but still chose to farm because he believes he can be a solution to the dying farmer population.
The triumph of these three farmers demonstrates not only their hard work and dedication, but also the reality of what young people have to endure in order to succeed. For them, there are certain perceptions about farming that should be instilled in the youth. These are:
1) There is money in agriculture. Young people are compelled to choose other professions because they think there is no money in agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. Profit can be generated in every aspect of the value chain, and with the right attitude, they can explore business possibilities in this enterprise.
2) Farming is NOT a poor man’s job. Farm business is not exclusive to production alone. Farming can be extended into several enterprises such as farm tourism, or transforming the farm into a learning site and farm school. Young farmers need training on how to manage their farm as a business, and how to do farm record-keeping and financial management.
3) Agriculture is a glamorous profession. With the growing demand for more safe, nutritious and affordable food, more and more people recognize the importance of agriculture. More people are willing to pay higher prices to avail themselves of organically grown food products.
Encouraging young people to engage in agriculture is a challenging task. The lack of political will, inadequate compensation for agricultural extension workers, and the general negative outlook toward farming are just some of the challenges that need to be overcome. But as long as there are young people like Armando, Junie and Nomer, who use their knowledge, skills and attitude to influence others to go back to farming, one thing is certain: The Filipino farmer is not and will not be a dying breed.
Larry Illich Souribio, Department of Agriculture Agricultural Training Institute, [email protected]
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