Declining agriculture enrollment poses threat to food security

  • 7 September 2015, Monday

Source: The Philippine Star, MSN News
6 Sep 2015

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – Enrollment in agricultural courses continues to decline, posing a serious threat to the country’s agriculture sector.

“The downward trend in enrollment in agriculture courses poses a serious concern to the agriculture sector, which is responsible for supporting the country’s growing demand for food, fuel, and feeds,” the Congressional Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE) noted.

Rep. Estrellita Suansing of the 1st district of Nueva Ecija filed House Resolution 589 calling for an inquiry into the decreasing number of licensed agriculturists and students pursuing career in agriculture with the end view of maintaining sufficiency in the country’s food requirements.

Records show there are more than a hundred state universities and colleges (SUCs) offering courses in agriculture. Other private institutions of higher learning are also offering agriculture courses.

The Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) confirmed that enrollment in agriculture and related courses has been declining by an average of 1.5 percent every year.

SEARCA, which is based in the University of the Philippines Los Baños  cited findings of a comprehensive study on trends, prospects, and policy directions in higher education in agriculture published in 2013 by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development.

A study commissioned by SEARCA projected that while enrollment in agricultural education has been declining, the demand for agricultural products such as food, fuel, and feeds would continue to increase as Filipinos seek sustainable, nutritious, and safe agricultural products.

“The demand should correspondingly increase the need for agricultural professionals. Critical policy interventions would be important in creating an enabling environment for agriculture and correspondingly agricultural professionals to take part in the sector,” it stressed.

The SEARCA study also showed that graduate education in agriculture in the Asean region is currently facing a crisis.

According to SEARCA, the world needs highly trained and skilled scientists and technologists to respond to the increasingly difficult challenges of providing enough food and other agricultural products for an increasing population amid uncertainties.

Results of the study showed that graduate schools in Asean universities have not been responsive enough to the emerging opportunities and threats facing agriculture in the region and beyond.

“The time has come to move up the value chain of agriculture to cover the entire agribusiness commodity system and not limit its domain to just farm-level production,” SEARCA pointed out.

The center also emphasized that “broadening the domain of agriculture would also count in favor of the Philippines as it faces the Asean Economic Community 2015 where production and trade will be borderless.

Suggested improvements on agricultural curricula include application of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to agricultural data analytics, agricultural technology, and solutions for agricultural development.

Partnership with government agencies and the private sector will give students opportunities for collaborative research and exposure to application of science and technology to real world problems.