I recently wrote about the need to stay competitive in the local agriculture sector given many entrants and the choices consumers get in the process. I highlighted the need to address the growing problem of aging farmers, who on average are 53 years old. This poses a big challenge in terms of food security and sustainability.
Getting to know of a Department of Agriculture program for young farmers was, therefore, a pleasant discovery. Supported by Senator Imee Marcos and other government agencies, the Young Farmers Challenge essentially addresses the aging farmer problem. Also called the Kabataang Agribiz Competitive Grant Assistance Program, it aims to encourage the youth to engage in profitable and sustainable agri-fishery enterprises by providing access to resources and opportunities.
The numbers are promising: In the first leg of the program, 1,179 young farmers were identified as grant beneficiaries to enable them to pursue agri-fishery enterprises. The young farmers, selected nationwide, represent about 16 regions.
“The DA-AMAS launched the Young Farmers Challenge: Kabataang Agribiz nationwide to attract more entrepreneurial ideas. Initiatives such as these allow our youth to cut their teeth in agribusiness and hone their technical skills onto building a career in agriculture,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said during his recent State of the Philippine Agriculture Report.
It is a very relevant program as the current pandemic has disrupted the food industry. Young farmers are exposed to the many technological innovations and are therefore empowered to apply these. One will also be pleasantly surprised about their entrepreneurial attitude and innovativeness in coming up with business plans. Some of the young farmers’ agri-fishery enterprises have advanced to compete on a regional level. They cover, but are not limited to, areas such as plum wine making, hydroponics, urban microgreens, and mushroom farms.
It is also worthwhile to note that the young farmers will also be encouraged to form agripreneurship clubs at the provincial and regional levels, wherein they can meet regularly to share experiences and establish business collaborations. This setup happily reminds me of Maria Oroso who formed her own 4H (health, heart, head, hand) club during her time to educate people about home improvement, wanting to make sure that every household became an industry and a garden on its own — essentially a food-secure household in today’s modern times.
I laud the Department of Agriculture’s efforts in promoting farming among the youth. The program has developed their interest in agriculture, so much so that there is a clamor for the program to be repeated next year. We should have programs like this in many other areas where we need to be secure and sustainable to address the country’s needs, especially during this pandemic.