EDITOR’S NOTE: Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson made a revelation recently in his State of the Province Address that was interesting to some, sobering to others.
Some sectors think it could even be alarming if viewed in the context of food security.
This special report is the first in a series as DNX focuses on the aging farmer population and its implications on a wider context to agricultural sustainability and food security.
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – When the author of this article was a young boy, he would always go to their farm in Talisay City with his father and uncles.
He would admire the rural scenery, its purity and its cleanliness as a wholesome alternative to the humdrum existence in the metropolis.
Spending time in the farm, eating there, and interacting with local folk gave him a glimpse into the lives and livelihoods of farmers, food producers, and planters.
These memories and experiences shaped his views on agriculture and food security.
Early this week, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose pointed out issues on agricultural development and food security in his State of the Province Address.
Among the issues he had pointed out, aside from Capitol’s achievements related to agriculture, was this: the province has an aging farmer population.
The governor said available data showed farmers in the province are mostly aged between 57 to 60 years.
That sounded interesting enough.
What followed seemed more interesting.
Lacson said while half of the province’s land area remains agricultural, farmers and fisherfolk are still among the poorest sectors.
Despite the aging farmer population, Lacson pointed out: “Our young people have no interest in pursuing a career in agriculture, maybe out of disenchantment.”
These framed the governor’s thrust to develop agriculture that aims to “uplift” the lives of farmers, which he said are among the important thrusts of his administration.
He added “we need to realize the urgency of this need.”
PART OF A NATIONAL CONTEXT
The aging farmer population is not a new phenomena and not a concern only in the province.
In 2813, the national broadsheet Manila Times cited a study by the Central Mindanao University which showed the average age of farmers at 55.
Anthropology professor Florencia Palis, in a study published by the Philippine Science Journal, cited the findings of Asterio Saliot, a former director of the Agricultural Training Institute of the agriculture department who warned of a “critical shortage” of farmers in only 15 years.
This is in contrast to the younger age of 44, the reported average age of a Filipino farmer in the April 1971 Philippine agriculture census, according to a 1979 study.
The same study indicated a strong preference on the part of farmers for “their children to stay away from rice farming, while only more than a third of them (the parent farmers) (35 percent) wanted their children to be rice farmers.”
Tomorrow: Why the disenchantment?