‘More into Farmville than farming’

A youth ushers a water buffalo to higher ground at Barangay Camanutan, Isabela province, north of Manila on October 19, 2015, a day after typhoon Koppu hit Aurora province. Residents of flooded farming villages in the Philippines were trapped on their rooftops October 19 and animals floated down fast-rising rivers, as deadly Typhoon Koppu dumped more intense rain. AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

Aging Pinoy farmers have few successors

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has warned that the country faces a looming shortage of farmers with declining interests in agriculture among Filipinos.

“The average age of our farmers as of date is 57 years old,” DA Undersecretary Ranibai Dilangalen told the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

“And our youth are no longer interested in agriculture except the ‘Farmville’ in the Internet,” she said.

Dilangalen stressed the agency has to adopt appropriate strategies to address the issue, including the grant of scholarships for students pursuing agriculture courses.

Rep. Lianda Bolilia expressed alarm over the implication of the trend.

Bolilia noted that based on the 2015 Human Development Index, employment in agriculture accounts for about 20.4 percent and the average Filipino farmer age ranges from 57 to 59.

“This means this farmer will soon join the rank of senior citizens. This means younger people are no longer interested in farming,” said Bolilia.

“And because of this, we may experience shortage of farmers and face risks to our food security,” Bolilia added.

She added all the development plans can’t be implemented if very few are interested in farming.

Committee vice chairman Rep. Rodante Marcoleta warned that without proper incentives for agriculture, it would be difficult to entice the youth to engage in farming.

In contrast to local farmers who either earn meager incomes or worse, saddled with huge debts, he noted farmers in South Korea and Japan fare so much better.

Among other things, Dilangalen said DA’s promotion of farming is supported by the reintegration of basic agriculture to primary and secondary education.

“We also provide scholarships and encourage graduates of agriculture to work with us or provide them with financial assistance to start their own business ventures if they cannot be absorbed by the agency,” she explained.

Dilangalen said the DA is trying to increase the productivity and income of farmers for the younger generation to see that there is still hope and opportunity in agriculture.
Committee chair Rep. Roger Mercado, meanwhile, believes charter change is key to ensuring the continuity and sustainability of President Duterte’s vision for the country even beyond his term in 2022.