Farming is now a better prospect for the youth in Nueva Ecija who went into farming after finishing few years in school.
Through the AgRiDOCs (Agricultural Development Officers of the Community), 20 out-of-school youth (OSYs) in barangay Maligaya in Science City of Muñoz were equipped with both technical knowledge and a positive mindset toward farming and agriculture.
After completing the seven week-long training as part of the module for of the AgRiDOC training, Arnaldo Bildua, 20, with seven years of farming experience, said the activity gave him a better understanding and appreciation of rice.
Born in a typical farm family and the youngest among seven siblings, Bildua works for seed growers in Maligaya. During harvest, he is hired to help in the drying, rouging, and processing of seeds but, most of the time, he is left with nothing to do.
“I am encouraged to go back to farming. I realized that there is more money in farming, especially in rice,” he said.
In the country’s rice granary, Bildua is one of the many students who were not able to pursue college education owing to lack of resources.
In addition to OSYs, a study cited by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture shows that “enrollment in agriculture and related courses has been declining by an average of 1.5 percent every year.”
Dr. Karen Eloisa T. Barroga, leader of Project IPaD that implements the AgRiDOC training, engaging the community, especially the OSYs-farmers, complements the project’s core mission of contributing to community transformation.
“It is a great challenge to engage the OSYs, who often work in the farm only for work’s sake. But, we know that farming will soon be in their hands. So, we have to show them that it can be productive and profitable. We also encourage positive mindset and engage them in entrepreneurial activities with the AgRiDOCs to help ensure sustainability and resilience. Otherwise, they will leave farming, their families, and their communities,” Barroga said.
Barroga also said that the training could give OSYs an advantage when applying for rice-related jobs, especially if they pursue certification from TESDA as Project IPaD is also currently working with the agency in developing training regulations for rice production competency.
Meanwhile, the AgRiDOCs who graduated in October said that the field activities and discussion they conducted with the OSYs had improved their skills on sharing their knowledge and developed their capacity as community transformers.
Among the rice farming topics that the second batch of AgRiDOCs from Visayas and Mindanao, shared with the OSYs included classifying organisms in the rice field, using a nitrogen diagnostic tool called leaf color chart, and doing an agro-ecosystem analysis, which lessens chemical applications.
Training the OSYs in rice farming communities is part of the PalayCheck and Palayamanan module of the AgRiDOC training under Project IPaD which is funded by the DA National Rice Program through the DA-BAR. PalayCheck is an integrated crop management system for rice while Palayaman is a diversified rice-based farming system coined from the words palay (rice) and yaman (wealth).