OLD GENERATION farmers have been primarily subsistence-oriented. Amid soaring food prices and supply woes, it has become absolutely imperative for us to cultivate a fresh breed of young farmers that are technologically savvy, driven to be entrepreneurs and surplus-oriented.
We desperately need young blood to drive our farms. The results of the Census of Agriculture as early as two years ago indicated that some 9,900 farms were being erased every year from the country’s inventory of arable lands. This could be due to the indiscriminate conversion of farmlands and more worryingly, due to the lack of new farmers.
We have a network of state-run agricultural schools nationwide. But over the years, these colleges, except for the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, have deteriorated due to neglect. We should revitalize these schools by providing them increased subsidy. The government should find ways to augment in a big way the budgetary support for state-run agricultural colleges to enable them to quickly develop a new generation of young and highly productive farmers. The Department of Agriculture and the Commission on Higher Education may also draw up special crash courses on modern farming systems and entrepreneurship.
A special program may also be established to spur graduates of agricultural schools to pursue farm-related businesses. We should encourage graduates of farming-related courses as well as aspiring entrepreneurs to engage in agribusiness by providing them access to low-cost capital and special post-graduate training.
Don’t we have an annual funding for the implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program? Why not use this to revitalize agricultural schools and to support young farmers? The bottom-line is to ensure the country’s food security.
The Philippines is basically an agricultural country. Sadly, very few young Filipinos are now going into farming. Studies have shown that the average Filipino farmer is now 55 years old. If the trend continues, our farms will continue to decline, and food production will deteriorate, perhaps irreversibly.