BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – When Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson declared that farmers in the province are aging, this implies a grave effect on food sustainability and security.
The governor notes in his State of the Province Address that there is a certain disenchantment from young people on farming.
The previous installment of this article point to studies corroborating the governor’s claims, including one Central Mindanao University, and then later by University of the Philippines Los Baños showing that farmers wanted their children to stay away from farming (READ: DNX Special Report | Beyond verdant plains and lush landscapes: Farmers, food and survival).
Crucially, the UPLB study said, “Most of the farmers in the three provinces did not want their children to be like them.” These three provinces are Iloilo, Isabela, and Agusan del Norte.
A smaller percentage of about 43% said they wanted at least one of their children to continue in their farming footsteps.
As to the prospects for their children, the study further elaborated that: “Most farmers believed that their children would not have a future if they become rice farmers like them (73%). They expressed the opinion that rice farming is physically tiring and not economically rewarding. Although farming is their life, they wanted a college education for their children for them to have a stable job and income (32%). Importantly, according to parent farmers, their children were not interested in rice farming (21%).”
University of St. La Salle, Elias P. Patriarca, Jr., when sought out by DNX, in shedding light on the issue of aging farmers and the disenchantment of their children, said that one of the main reasons for this rise in their age is due to agriculture, being the backbone of the economy, getting left behind.
Furthermore, he pointed out the that there is an apparent prevailing perception of farming and agriculture being a “dirty” occupation, owing to its hands-on nature, originated from the colonial history of the Philippines, with farmers being looked down upon by the elites.
This perception coming from a socially stratified occupational viewpoint has led to the progeny of farmers to wind up favoring more easy-to-do, and less backbreaking white collar occupations in urbanized areas, and their parents, in fact, would tend to share the same views and desire congruently a higher-paying occupation for their own children.
Patriarca further added that agricultural production remains low due to the province’s very backward agricultural situation due to insufficient technology transfers and a lack of support from the government.
A report by Sara Soliven De Guzman in Philippine Star, and another report by Vincent Mariel Galang published in Business World last 22 July, 2019 titled Agriculture: low productivity and high production costs showed that the agricultural sector is not doing well, owing significantly to a gap with technological advances and high production costs.
Competitiveness suffers as a result of these poor practices.
Looking at these concurrent conditions from a systems analysis point-of-view, the Philippines has consistently lagged behind countries who possess more open and inclusive institutions in terms of innovation, competitiveness, and productivity.
Addressing the needs of the agriculture sector requires a deep look into the root causes of its dysfunction and sluggishness, with a prominent farmer in Bacolod City classifying it as being on “life support”.
What then, could be done to address this issue?
Up next: Saving the sector, saving the industry.