Previously, this article tackled the realities and implications of an ageing farming sector especially to food security and sustainability. [READ: DNX Special Report | Beyond verdant plains and lush landscapes: Farmers, food and survival (Pt. 2)]
Issues have been raised on the disenchantment of the younger generation on the industry of farming and the general perception that it is a “dirty” occupation.
What then could be done to save the apparently dying industry?
An institutional overhaul may very well get the ball rolling on fixing some or most of its current problems.
In order to specifically address and resolve the issues of agriculture in prevalent in the Philippines, a scientific, whole-of-nation approach taking into account local and regional sensibilities may be in the offing.
There is ample opportunity to kickstart and rejuvenate the lives of farmers by injecting good practices and wise investments in farming through means of economic liberalization.
A source in Singapore who asked not to be named provided a look into and threshed out possible solutions for revitalizing the farming sector.
The source, who had studied some of the best practices in farming, posited that “improving agriculture’s efficiency absolutely requires that we suck people OUT OF AGRICULTURE (primitive, manual labor-intensive subsistence agriculture) into modern industries, and get them away from the isolated countryside and into newly-formed modern urban centers.”
“The newly-vacated agricultural lands would then be CONSOLIDATED into modern corporatized farms run by companies with enough financial capital and the economies of scale (huge land) that will be farmed under an industrialized and mechanized scheme, using modern equipment: tractors, harvesters, etc.,” he continued.
His observations were corroborated in an article in the Business Mirror, which stated: “Dr. Santiago R. Obien, senior technical adviser of the Department of Agriculture’s National Rice Program, said during the forum that in developed countries, farmers make up only about three percent of the population. He cited South Korea, whose farming population declined from 53 percent of the total population in 1960 to 16 percent at present. These farmers, according to Obien, are well-off.”
“Encouraging consolidation or corporate farming will not only solve the anticipated shortage of farmers but also help achieve the goal of food security.”
On a similar note, both Patriarca and the Bacolod farmer noted that there must be a seriousness of purpose and a sincerity as to how the government deals with its backbone of agriculture, with the creation of a long-term plan along with a comprehensive database or inventory proving both favorable and necessary.
Both agree that social, educational, and economic incentives must be provided in order to make farming appealing and profitable for the younger generation.
Both emphasized a need for the private sector’s involvement in the creation of systems to ease trade and facilitate growth in doing agricultural business.
It must be made to look appealing and attractive should it have a shot at survival, with a shift in mindset required in looking favorably at the role of business in uplifting people’s livelihoods and well-being.
The emphasis on agriculture also presents a looming national security threat, as it is also inextricably linked to the issue of self-sufficiency and food security.
Without farmers, the Philippines may resort to importing its food from other countries, presenting it with a potential slew of hard issues for its relatively underdeveloped state to address.
Another intimate topic closely interconnected with the issue of the extractive Philippine state, which is perceived to be misgoverned, with different parties apparently jockeying for power.
These squabbling and political disputations could have an adverse impact in potential advances in the field of agricultural technology. Reform in the larger scale of politics and economics remains a necessity, albeit elusive now.
A concentration on agriculture as a pillar of national development could also be considered.
In addition to the rapid growth of cities and urbanization, it is highly important to develop the backbone of local growth in the way of agricultural competences, too.
The trend of aging farmers can be reversed and turned into an opportunity if the right policies in the way of financing, education, best practices, and land consolidation among other things get prioritized by both the local and national government.
There is a great opportunity to reinvent what is indicated by statistics as a dying industry. It would make sense for the state to take it, and take it now.