The youth’s participation in agriculture is slowly becoming a relevant ambition for the Philippines. It does not simply imply a brighter future for the youth of today; it also gives hope to the industry that provides food for every household table.

In 2019, a number of policymakers have called for encouraging initiatives. Department of Education Sec. Leonor Briones said that agriculture must be integrated as early as in basic education.

“I believe that teaching agriculture to college students at the tertiary level will be already a little too late. We have to develop a passion, an interest, and excitement for agriculture at the basic education level,” she said in a story published in the Inquirer.net on Nov. 1, 2019.

Another cabinet secretary also said that the youth, being the tech-savvy that they are, have essential roles in modernization.

“Their entry into the agriculture sector, especially as agripreneurs and infomediaries, would greatly help modernize Philippine agriculture. Hence, programs, projects, and policies to attract more of the youth into the agriculture sector are a must,” Department of Agriculture’s William Dar wrote in his ‘New Thinking’ article.

Beyond the data

Before acquiring national certificates on four different agriculture-related short courses, Carmi Kilayko’s engagement to this field was not as encouraging as it is now. This young professional from Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat belongs to a smallholder farming family that is financially challenged. Sadly, she needed a scholarship to get into college.

Truth be told, Carmi may not consider agriculture as a viable opportunity if her family’s experiences were to be considered. She may even look at farming as a difficult, sometimes unrewarding job to fulfill. Good thing, her involvement in an initiative for high school students made her reconsider her stand in the country’s economic backbone.

In 2013, Carmi and her schoolmates at Apolinario S. Bernardo Memorial National High School was involved in the Infomediary Campaign, an initiative to mobilize high school students to serve as information mediators in their own rural rice-farming households. They listened to lectures and had hands-on exercises on rice planting and entertaining activities like quiz bees. She wanted more of her growing interest for the field so she pursued further studies and experience. She now holds NC II in organic agriculture, horticulture, animal production and food processing. She had these while leading their community’s 4H Club, an organization of young enthusiasts for agriculture.

“I must say, I am in love with agriculture,” an inspired Carmi admitted.

Call for more

The International Labor Organization revealed that in 2017, agriculture is no longer included in the growing sectors for the youth.

In their study, Jaime Manalo IV and Elske Van de Fliert identified poverty and risk in farming, the need for quality education, and lack of parents’ support as the common reasons of the rural youth in leaving farming.

While data showed the current trend, the fact that the youth still have direct and indirect roles in the farms have to be magnified. Like Carmi, the age-old dilemma of youth leaving agriculture requires the right intervention.

 “While there seems a consensus that young people are leaving agricultural communities, attention should also be directed to people who are comfortable working in the rice farm. The debate should now focus on which forms of indirect engagement best suit young people,” authors of the book, Youth and Agriculture: The Infomediary Campaign in the Philippines, stated.

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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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