by Ambrosio R. Villorente
The latest survey report of the Social Weather Station (SWS) states that 43 percent or 9.3 million Filipinos considered themselves hungry. While 55 percent or 12.1 million Filipino families believed they are poor. The survey was conducted on September 26-29.
Moreover, Sen. Grace Poe pointed to a very grim statistics. In her recent privilege speech, she called the government to redirect its focus to the rampant hunger and poverty. According to Sen. Poe, “some 87 percent of households are so bereft of proper food that they resort to food alternatives like soy sauce, bagoong, tomato, salt, and coffee.” About 7.36 million Filipino children, five (5) years and below, are malnourished, and 5.5 million of 13.4 million poor children below 18 years old are forced to skip school. They look for jobs to augment family income.
In Aklan, more than 33,000 children of school age are out of school of whom 12,000 or about 35 percent wanted to attend training to qualify themselves for immediate employment and eventually conquer poverty.
Sen. Poe recommends for the “realignment in budget priorities to increase funding for children’s feeding programs and for greater institutional support for agriculture, a sector long battered by natural calamities and chronic governmental corruption, to ensure the adequate supply of food.
Agriculture - The Weapon Against Poverty
In the column of Jose Rene C. Gayo in PDI, August 25, 2014 issue, he pointed out to “agriculture still the most potent weapon against poverty.”
However, a review of “Philippine experience in managing economic development shows a strong bias against agriculture,” Gayo stressed. Since 1950, industrialization has been the main focus of economic policy that has its centerpiece strategy hinged on import substitution.
To attain sustainable agriculture development, Gayo recommends some measures to do:
1. Re-engineering bureaucracy for agriculture with rural development. This is the merging of DA, DAR, DENR to maximize resources facilities, coordination, and avoid the problems associated with “turfs”. The DA be the surviving entity with DAR, DENR as bureaus. These sectoral groupings may serve as the basic framework for the DA.
2. Manage agriculture as a business. Until today, agriculture is being treated from the scientific and technical point of view. It is now time to shift to “farming as a business, make farming more profitable. The farmers must know how to manage their farm well, finance adequately their operations, market their production and solve their expenses, income and profit.”
3. Re-invent education for agriculture and rural development. Education must prepare agricultural curriculum to generate corps of agriculture entrepreneur and agri-business professionals who will engage in agriculture and rural development projects.
ASU Still To Produce Agri-Businessmen
Aklan State University is still to produce agriculture leaders in the field and agri-businessmen. What ASU has been producing are graduates who are job seekers rather than job providers. ASU Banga seems to forget its primary mandate which is to produce farmer leaders.
Agriculture is a system, therefore, our farm education training institutions must develop human resources who are competent to manage agriculture as a system. Being a system, it must start from production, harvesting, transportation and handling, processing, storage, marketing and utilization.
Motivation must be provided to young men to go to agri-business, to cajole them to study and become agri-businessmen. Scholarships for students of agriculture be provided and guaranteed starting capital for those graduates who will venture in agriculture enterprise after graduation.
The Philippines is an agricultural country with her soil and climate best suited for agriculture. She has most fertile lands, wide seas, long rivers and lakes. But, sad to say, these huge natural resources are just left undeveloped and continuously wasted.
The Philippines needs the best and the brightest farm developers who are in excellent health conditions to withstand the adverse weather condition. The Philippines need farmers who know more, who must know biology as farmer deals with life, engineering, accounting to compute his investment, chemistry as he deals with chemicals, human relation as he deals with peoples and many other human disciplines. /MP