The Department of Agriculture (DA) MIMAROPA has selected 18 startups in Palawan for the 2022 Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) provincial-level selection, which addresses the decreasing trend of young farmers venturing into the agriculture sector.
YFC focal in MIMAROPA, Charles Herpacion, said Wednesday that the provincial-level selection of proposals was facilitated by the DA-MIMAROPA for a standardized selection in all provinces. Out of 100 proposals submitted in the region, only 48 qualified as per evaluation conducted by judges.
Aside from 18 in Palawan, around 15 other proposals qualified from Oriental Mindoro, four from Occidental Mindoro, six from Marinduque and five from Romblon.
“It is basically to engage– the Filipino youth to engage in farm production. Not only in farm production but also in processing and other related activities in agriculture and fisheries,” he said.
The department is alarmed with the decreasing trend of enrollees in the universities engaging in agriculture-related courses. Herpacion views it as an indicator that the interests of youths to venture into the agriculture sector is declining.
The current average age of farmers is reaching over 60 years old, he added. The declining number of farmers in MIMAROPA may also lead the region to rely on other regions to meet the demands, Herpacion explained.
“May 10 to 15 years from now, kung hindi sila mapapalitan, talagang wala na tayong magsasaka na maaaring mag-takeover sa mga nasimulan ng mga magsasaka noon pa para mag-produce ng pagkain,” he said.
“Ang apparent na repercussion ‘pag hindi masyadong na-engage ang ating kabataan, mababa ang level ng production on a national level. Talagang may threat tayo sa food security, ngayon ang tendency niyan ay maaaring mag-import na lang tayo mula sa ibang bansa,” he added.
The YFC aims to change the views of youths in agriculture as it is perceived by some as “unrewarding” as a line of profession.
“Kapag sinabi kasing agriculture, ang mentality ng mga kabataan ngayon is you have to engage in production. Nandoon ka lang sa field, cultivate ng lupa and you have to wait for like three months to get money– unlike with other professions na malaki ang bigayan– [Nakikita rin nila] na nakakapagod unlike sa office and other high paying jobs,” he added.
The declining number of young farmers is also attributed to how some farming families encourage their children to choose a career that would be good paying as they experienced struggle in finances.
“Especially sa farming communities, base na rin sa pag-aaral, ilang taon na nila ginagawa ‘yan pero nararamdaman nila na hindi umaangat ang buhay nila sa pagsasaka. Ngayon, ini-encourage nila sa kanilang mga anak, kung maaari ay pumunta sa siyudad, doon maghanap ng magandang oportunidad kaysa sa pagsasaka,” he said.
Through the YFC program, the department is providing cash grants and free training to provide opportunities for the youths who want to venture into the agriculture business in 2021.
The qualified start-up enterprises are individuals and groups who undergo a selection of experts in the agriculture business. Each individual enterprise received a cash grant amounting to P50,000, while P100,000 was given to the group enterprise.
The DA MIMAROPA initially targeted 80 enterprises from different provinces in the region but only 48 proposals qualified in the evaluation of the panel of judges. The 48 which received a total of P3.6 million cash grant is composed of 24 individual enterprises and 24 group enterprises.
By the end of August, the cash grants will be given to the selected enterprises to be followed by the regional-level selection in October. The DA MIMAROPA will select five enterprises under the production category, one from processing, and one from digital agriculture.
“Para sa ngayon taon, nakatanggap lang kami ng business proposals mula sa production, processing at digital agriculture, walang nag-submit ng proposal sa supply chain business solution. Sa 48 na nakapasok sa provincial-level ay maglalaban-laban sila sa regional level for seven slots lang,” he said.
The DA MIMAROPA will monitor the progress of 48 enterprises in a year and will see their progress quarterly to ensure the sustainability of the projects. The selected enterprises in the region will be qualified to join the national selection.
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