Wanted: Youth in Agriculture
It is so fitting that the first entry for this blog site is about the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB), as all of the members of Dream Agritech come from the hallowed halls and verdant fields of this bucolic paradise south of Metro Manila. There was an article on Inquirer.net about the sharp decline of enrollment in Agriculture at UPLB. "Agriculture is becoming the least appealing career choice." says Jesusita Coladilla from the UPLB School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM). This is saddening, because not only is this the trend at UPLB, we are seeing this trend across all the agricultural schools in the country. People aren't lining up to take agriculture.
Agriculture has fallen behind courses that offer titles (Medicine, Law, Engineering, Nursing, Accounting, Dentistry) and courses that offer better opportunities, specifically those that provide the highest salaries. (Economics, Management, Information Technology, Hotel and Restaurant Management). Agriculture is an after-thought.
Agriculture graduates are somewhat under-employed. I have heard of agriculture graduates being used as laborers on farms. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a laborer, but these people didn't go through 4 years of a college course; investing time, money and effort just to perform menial tasks on a daily basis. I am sure that this was not what they had in mind when they signed up to take agriculture.
Now if you were in that situation, would you encourage people to go into agriculture? It's like the old farmer telling his kids to stay away from farming, all over again.
Now as I pointed out on my Facebook post, we can attract the youth towards agriculture once they see that it is profitable:
"One possible solution towards this is if we showcase agriculture as an industry where you can be an entrepreneur, while contributing to society by being a vital member of the supply chain as a food producer. Access to credit, technology, institutional support and markets are some of the ways we can implore young people to join this sector."
I mean, I didn't just come up with this. I have asked experts about this:
Kamal Kishore (Coordinator, Rainfed Livestock Network)
"There are three critical points. First off, we have to elevate the status of being an Agriculturist. He/she should have prestige. Second, farming should be treated as an enterprise. We have to give access to bank credit and create incentives. Lastly, it should be profitable."
Dr. Abdul Halim (Head, Department of Agriculture, PNG University of Technology)
"The most important thing is incentives. They must feel the need to get involved in agricultural activities. Increase job security, food security for the agriculturist and the family. Increase the prospects for youth to build a career in agriculture. They should create new jobs, instead of traditional agriculture; it should be market-driven agriculture. In Papua New Guinea, youth take advantage of the available resources that they have and they always look for things which have high demand in the market. They should also be inspired through agriculture activities and training."
Dr. Virginia Cardenas (Deputy Director l-Administration, SEARCA; Steering Committee member, GFRAS; APIRAS)
"Make them attracted to agriculture through the following activities. First, create awareness of economic opportunities in agriculture using various communication media, especially social media, and field visits to successful agro-entrepreneurs. Secondly, demonstrate that agriculture is profitable and a sustainable livelihood system. Third, development agencies should help them be innovative. Create a small-scale test for appreciation and evaluation.
Help should be readily available to them when they decide to go into agriculture. Support services should be accessible to allow them to practice agriculture. We should also organize them and help them think and behave like entrepreneurs. Business advisers will be needed and, of course, government and private sector support."
It is clear that we need agriculturists. Like I told that person belittling agriculturists:
"I don’t know how you can belittle and demean a profession which allows you to exist. Without agriculture, you would be dead. It’s not a figure of speech. It’s funny that in a reply you said that you will just import food; ignoring the fact that no matter where it comes from, it will still be a product of Agriculture."
Our government boasts of steady economic growth and development in the Philippines. That we, as a country, are on our way up. For this to be felt by all Filipinos, it is in the agriculture sector where growth and development must take place. I mean, it is basic: less hungry people, better country. Simple, yet quite hard to accomplish.
We need to encourage the youth to go into this industry not only to continually feed us, but these youth should also be responsible is taking care of our planet. Sustainable food production systems should be the norm. This can be encouraged by rewarding farms that practice sustainable farming practices.
The farmer is aging.
To the youth: You're next.
Image from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Carabao_Park_Close_up_UPLB.JPG