The shrinking, ageing and anemic population of Filipino farmers must have sent an alarming and mind-bungling signal to the Department of Agriculture (DA) leaving to the beleaguered agency to strategize and search for solution to the big problem with gargantuan effect on the Filipinos existence as a race.
A random visit to farms and rice fields provide proof of the age range of farmers tilling the soil. One sees the overwhelming high percentage of old workforce compared to their younger counterpart in the agriculture sector. This sad reality must have driven the DA top officials back to the drawing board, tackle the ageing farmers issue head-on. The bigger question that beset DA, in order to alleviate the fear of fewer hands seen tilling the agricultural farms to produce food for the growing population of the country, is how to lure the younger generation to embrace farming as a vocation, inherit and use their fathers’ plow and carabao to plant and produce food for the table.
DA is advancing the idea to empower young farmers and enthusiasts by rolling out internship opportunities and credit support for agribusiness ventures as come on. The strategy is through training and extension with the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), an agency under DA.
On the other hand, in the academe there is a marked disparity in the number of students taking up agriculture and fisheries degrees, compared to those enrolled in social science-related courses. This is evident even in the presence and availability scholarships in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and in State University and Colleges (SUCs) with strong agricultural curricula, laboratory, and field facilities and availability of training programs.
Again, we depend on the government sustained program to strengthen and produce new and young farmers to take he cudgels of tilling agricultural farms and produce rice, corn, root crops, vegetables, and fruits for domestic consumption and for export purposes to enhance our economy, increase dollar reserve and implement social services program of government. It is imperative that we increase the manpower (academically honed), workforce (non-degree, but trained) to populate the agricultural sector.
The internship program of DA should include training on the mechanization (handling) of farms, including the use of PHilMech made agricultural machineries. The mandate of the ATI should be complemented with the MENRO, CENRO, and PENRO personnel devolved from DA and now under the LGUs.
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