Why Filipinos should consider becoming farmers

By Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Apr 25 2015 08:43 PM | Updated as of Apr 26 2015 04:43 AM

MANILA -- Despite being an agricultural country, the number of people entering the industry in the Philippines is decreasing, mainly due to various stereotypes about farming.

In an interview on dzMM, Dean Domingo Angeles of the UP Los Baños College of Agriculture said the country has more than enough graduates of agricultural courses.

The College of Agriculture in UPLB accepts 330 students annually.

There are also around 46,000 agriculture students from 112 state universities and colleges that offer agriculture courses.

However, most of the graduates do not actually end up as farmers.

"Most graduates go to the service sector. 'Pag sinabing service sector, nandun 'yung industry sa business, tapos 'yung government," Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Fred Serrano said.

He added that the average educational attainment of farmers is fifth grade. Seldom do they reach high school level.

For Nonong Velasco, a consultant for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, having farmers with low educational attainment can be a problem since they also have to understand the business aspects.

Unfortunately, people do not think of agriculture or farming as a profession, which makes it less attractive for younger people, Velasco said.

"Bakit wala nang magsasaka? Kasi hindi ino-honor ang farmers. Hindi [sila] binibigyan ng halaga...there's something wrong in our society. We do not honor hardwork. We do not honor labor...parang palagi na lang sila ang na-aabuso, 'ika nga," Velasco added.

Domingo also explained that most Filipinos do not like to go into agriculture because of the level of difficulty and the supposedly low income being associated with it.

"Ang gobyerno, nagtatalaga ng wage policies. Kapag ikaw ay nasa agricultural sector, ang sweldo mo, ganito lamang. Kapag ikaw ay nasa industry, ang sweldo mo, ganito. So kung ikaw eh isang kabataan, saan ka pupunta? Siyempre doon sa trabaho na mataas ang sweldo. Hindi pa nadudumihan ang kamay, hindi ka pa nakabilad sa araw," he added.

This shows the government is not keen on giving incentives for farmers, unlike in other countries.

"Sa ibang bansa, meron silang tinatawag na, tulad sa Japan, income parity policy. Ang gobyerno, ina-assure, na kung ikaw ay mananatili sa farm mo, at magtatrabaho sa farm, the government assures you of an income that is at par, if not better, than what you will earn kapag ikaw ay magtatrabaho sa factory," Domingo said.

ENCOURAGING THE YOUTH

For Domingo and Serrano, understanding that agriculture industry is more than just farming can help people give more importance to this profession.

This can be done by re-orienting the educational system and including agriculture in lessons in elementary and high school.

"Ang pagtuturo ng agrikultura, mula elementary at high school, ay baguhin na natin. Ire-orient natin ang pagtuturo, bigyan natin ng parang science-based and technology-based education program ang high school. Hindi ho 'yung nagtatanim, kasi isang aspect lang ho 'yan ng agriculture eh. Pero 'yung entrepreneurship, or technopreneurship na sinasabi, we can introduce as early as high school. Baka 'yun ho ang maganda," Domingo said.

"Nagkaroon ng misinterpretation sa word na vocational. Ang meaning kasi ng vocational dito ay itinuturo mo siya hindi lang bilang trabaho, hindi lang bilang employment, kundi it’s a vocation, it’s a way of life. You teach a comprehensive view of life, meron kang leadership skills, cultural skills, scientific agricultural skills, pero noong nagkaroon ng science high school, kinonvert yan lahat, karamihan, naging science high school nitong mga schools na ill-equipped to teach science. Na ang naging orientation ngayon ay yung mga kukuha ng engineering, kukuha ng ganito, ganyan. 'Yun ang nawala na sa palagay ko, dapat irestore," Serrano added.