What the Candon youth can offer in agricultureOftentimes, people reckon that knowledge and skills in farming must come with years of experience. Truth is, while wisdom comes with age, the youth, when given the right opportunity, can actually become a strong force in the farming sector.

This is how the Candon Youth Movement (CYM) in Ilocos Sur molded their members to become brave farm ambassadors.

Noble beginnings

CYM is a youth organization that champions young people and their skills in helping build a better community. Candon Sangguniang Panglunsod member Joan Valdez, founder of CYM, said they wish to help the youth grow so they can freely express themselves, develop leadership skills, gain marketable skills, and widen their social circle.

“Our group started giving out slippers to those who don’t have any. We believe that through this simple act, they can have more dignity to move around and socialize in their respective schools and be more effective in pursuing their dreams,” Valdez recounted.

Since its conception, CYM grew with more than 50 members who actively engage in the organization’s activities. They also campaign for relevant social issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness, importance of education, and gender sensitivity. They also help during calamities and conduct youth capacity enhancement.

Farming as an advocacy

Trying to address societal concerns, CYM had engaged in agriculture through collaborations.

In 2015, PhilRice Batac station invited the CYM members to attend its farmers’ field day.

“We believe the young people have an important role in addressing the agriculture’s problem on aging farmers. After the field day, their members expressed their appreciation for agriculture, and that they acknowledged that they can also be involved in farming,” Dr. Reynaldo Castro, PhilRice Batac station said.

Sustaining the youth’s interest, PhilRice Batac invited them to a hands-on training on rice and rice-based farming technologies or the Palayamanan system.

After the training, the group formed the CYM Palayamanan Farmbassador Program, which officially started in June 2016.

“Fifteen of our members signified their interest in this program. They participated in the program as they want to help farmers in Candon City, who are generally poor and has an average yield of less than 4 t/ha. [They were also bothered that] we only have a number of local agriculture extension workers and services,” Valdez said.

In partnership with PhilRice Batac and the Candon San Juan de Sahagun Palayamanan Farmers’ Association, the CYM Farmbassadors have established a technology demonstration farm in Brgy. Caterman where they implemented the production technology package for rice and off-season vegetables.

Engr. Rafael Abaya, farmer-leader of the Palayamanan site in Candon City served as their adviser. The group use his farm as a learning site and they also gain knowledge from farmer-members of their association; forming a seamless and fruitful youth-adult synergy!

Brave extension agents

Stepping up their game, CYM Farmbassadors organized a 3-ha Palayamanan challenge among the farmers of Sitio Quimmarayan in Caterman, including their group. This was patterned from PhilRice’s 10-5 challenge, in which contenders need to produce 10 t/ha yield at only P5 input cost per kg of palay. Two farmers accepted their challenge using their own field practice while the Farmbassadors used the principles of integrated crop management (ICM).

“The Farmbassadors gained respect from the farmers as the youth were eager in showcasing their technology. [The farmers were also impressed] with their dedication and passion for farming,” Castro said.

These young people also introduced farming technologies in five more barangays in Candon.

“We partnered with farmers so we could showcase modified dapog, the importance of well-leveled field, minus one element technique, use of high quality seeds, and integrated pest and nutrient management,” Valdez said.

The work of CYM Ambassadors eventually called the attention of other agriculture enthusiasts. They were invited as resource persons in local and national radio programs and were featured in agriculture online and print media publications. They were also one of the plenary speakers during the 30th National Rice R4D Conference at PhilRice Central Experiment Station in Nueva Ecija this year, alongside veteran rice and rice-based farmers in the country.

Valdez also said that the first batch of Farmbassadors now manages a TESDA Farm School in Salcedo, Ilocos, Sur; some have continued taking NCIII trainings with TESDA and are now serving as farm technicians; some are leading Sangguninang Kabataan groups in their barangays; and others persevere in helping their farming communities through teaching different production technologies.

Their techno-demo farm was also regularly visited by government and non-government executives.

After his visit, National Youth Commissioner James Ventura emphasized in his article that the CYM played well in rekindling the youth’s love for farming.

“Surprisingly, their membership comes from an array of courses but they all come together to learn how to farm and practice this learning. We are glad some good people are finally tilling the soil more properly – and that these are young people,” Ventura wrote.

Hard work pays off

The Farmbassadors have also ventured into selling their farm produce. Their market proceeds are used for their campaigns and advocacies such as feeding programs, medical missions, and lectures on timely issues in the remote areas in Ilocos Sur.

They were also among the national qualifiers for the Livelihood and Entrepreneurship Category of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) Awards, an award-giving body that recognizes and supports the outstanding contribution of youth organizations in the country.

Meanwhile, the research study The Farmbassadors: Assuring Food Security for Tomorrow by Silvestre Briones, Maribel Alupay, Reynaldo Castro, and Joan Valdez was awarded 3rd best paper under the development category during the 30th Regional Symposium on R&D Highlights held at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University in Bacnotan, La Union last Nov 27-29.

However, the fruits of their labor went far more than the income nor the recognition they received.

“I think the best benefit I gained from joining Farmbassadors is that I’ve learned so many things, ideas, and experienced farming. Now, I have some knowledge to share with my parents and relatives whose main source of income is farming,” Jenna Joy Galanto, 20,

Indeed, there’s more to the youth than meets the eye.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute