Filipino farmers are getting older, and their children have no love for the farm. They shun manual labor, they don’t like getting dirty.

And life in the urban jungle, the city lights, and modern amenities beckon.

So, what must be done to lure farmers’ children back to where life started for many Filipinos?

Introduce mechanization, technology, IT, modern ways of raising crops and animals, and Farm Tourism sites.

Villar @ podium

Sen. Cynthia A. Villar cites importance of R&D results going to farmers, fisherfolk. (EKU)

Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and  Food, and Dr. William D. Dar, president of InangLupa Movement, emphasized this in separate interviews with SDN (Scietech and Digital News.)

She and Dar were speakers at the 14th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum (National Technology Forum, NTF) and Product Exhibition that opened on August 30 at SM Megamall, EDSA, Mandaluyong City.

How would it go, then.

“We make the farm more interesting. That is why we passed the Farm Tourism Law, so they will transform their farm into a tourist farm. we also put in farm schools so they can have school there. That’s interesting to the children, so we are mechanizing so they will not have to work with their hands, no longer ‘mano-mano’ (manual), the lady senator said.

William D. Dar

InangLupa Movement president William Dar at 2018 NTF cites IT for agriculture. (EKU)

“We will already be operating machines. These are ways we can make agriculture interesting, especially to the youth because our farmers are already old, their children should be taking over,” Villar said, the event’s guest of honor.

Dar, one of the Philippines (and the international agriculture community’s) recognized authorities on agriculture), has the same sentiments.

“We have to bring back the youth to agriculture, to farming in many ways. They should be supported in terms of being involved in agribusiness, or enterprise development in agriculture where there is income,” he shared.

IBON Foundation

He said new ways of farming and agriculture should be introduced, acknowledging the hurdles of getting young Filipinos to the farm.

“If they do not see those kinds of orientation, then they are not going back to agriculture. Let us make farming a profitable venture. Of course, we have to use new technologies, information technology (IT), new ways of growing crops, or raising animals,” the president of InangLupa Movement said.

To do this, Dar added, the youth need a venture capital, or supporting capital they can use to start with.

Booths of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) at 2018 NTF. (EKU)

“Our farmers are already old, almost 60 years old (average age), So, we have to really start training in a big way, seriously to bring back the younger generation to agriculture,” he added.

Earlier that day, Villar said they’re encouraging the youth to go back to the farm through mechanization of farms.

Farmers and fisherfolk

In her speech at the NTF, she emphasized that farmers and fisherfolk must benefit from government-funded research and development (R&D) projects.

Products

Some of the products exhibited and for sale during 2018 NTF, SM Megatrade Hall. (EKU)

She said this in no uncertain terms, that the products of R&D should benefit the country’s farmers and fisherfolk.

DA-BAR commended

Villar commended the Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture (DA-BAR) for its choice of “agripreneurship” as the event’s 2018 theme.

Being the lead coordinating  agency for R&D, the senator expressed the hope the BAR will  make sure the outputs of research will go to the target beneficiaries.

She asked rethorically what is the purpose of a research.

“Bakit ka magre-research kung hindi mo ma-iiapply sa buhay ng ating mahihirap na Pilipinong magsasaka at mangingisda. Di ba kaya nagreresearch para matulungan natin sila. Kaya pinopondohan ng gobyerno ang R$D, it is because the results of research will help uplift the lives of people in their practical applications,” Villar said.

(Why are we undertaking a research if you cannot apply the results to the lives of our poor Filipino farmers and fisherfolk. Isn’t it that you do research so we can help them. The reason the government is funding R&D is because the results of research will help uplift the lives of people in their practical applications.)

Kalinga BrewTake a pick

Above photo, some coffee products from Kalinga; below, Sen. Cynthia A. Villar.  (EKU)

Villar cited the NTF’s relevance in highlighting the R&D outputs and technology of BAR under the NTCP, which plays a key role in the development of enterprises and improvement of agri- and fisheries-related industry.

BAR should not falter in its commitment

“I hope BAR will not waver in its commitment to consolidate, strengthen, and develop the agriculture and fisheries R&D system for the purpose of improving its effectiveness and efficiency,” the senator added.

She also underscored the issue of food security and importation, saying, “No matter how hard it is, we have to improve our production of food so that we will produce enough food for our people and we produce it in competitive prices.”

DA Assistant Secretary Roldan G. Gorgonio lauded the bureau for showcasing to the public R&D outputs as he stressed the importance of mainstreaming food, non-food products, and generated technologies to the market through technology commercialization.

Gorgonio, who represented DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, noted that in this era of technology farmers and fishers must also be equipped, trained and capacitated with modern technologies and must have access to right information in order for them to be truly competitive.

Guests 2

Guests/speakers at the 2018 National Technology Forum, SM Megatrade Hall. (EKU)

Challenge to R&D workers in agriculture

The DA assistant secretary challenged “all agricultural R&D workers to adhere to the vision and mission of the Department of Agriculture on food security and sustainability. And in the pursuit of the mission, reducing poverty and making Philippine agriculture a sustainable and globally competitive sector is a must.”

A study in 2014 by the Philippine Center for Post-harvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Los Banos-Agricultural Mechanization Development Program (UPLB-AMDP) showed that Filipino rice farmers are in the 40 to 59 years old bracket.

Remember, the study was made four years ago and it covered 13 provinces.

Two provinces with with many farmers passed 60 years old

The study also found out that Camarines Sur, Bicol Region, and Iloilo, Panay Island, had the highest percentage of farmers who were 60 years old and above.

To the national government and the policymakers the PhilMech study should and must serve as a loud wake up call to address the issue of aging farmers and how to bring back to the farm their children.

And as Manny B. Villar, former speaker of the House of Representatives, and husband of the senator from Las Pinas, Metro Manila, abandoning agriculture is out of the question.

“As I said at the beginning, however, we cannot abandon agriculture because food security is vital to our survival as a nation. The aging of Filipino farmers may lead to food insecurity,” he said in one of his column pieces on BusinessMirror.

The Philippine Agriculture and Resources Research Foundation, Inc. (PARRFI) organized the event and coordinated with the media. (EKU)