Magna Carta for young tillers urged

  • 15 January 2015, Thursday

Source: The Philippine Star
4 Jan 2015

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – A farmers’ federation is pushing for the crafting of a Magna Carta for  small farmers to address the problems besetting the country’s young tillers.              

The Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) is also calling for  the development of a viable partnership between young farmers and various sectors such as the government, business, banks,  research and academic community to encourage the youth to pursue a career in agriculture and engage in entrepreneurial farming.              

PAKISAMA is one of 17 national federations and organizations of small farmers and producers in 13 Asian countries allied with the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA).               

The proposed Magna Carta of Young Farmers is envisioned to promote and protect the rights and privileges of young tillers aged 15-40 years; establish programs for them; and institutionalize their representation in agriculture policy-making bodies.              

Ana P. Sibayan, a 25-year old PAKISAMA farmer-leader from Barangay San Narciso, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, took the cudgels for the young agriculture workforce at the “Second International Conference on Agriculture and Rural Development in Southeast Asia (ARD2014)” held recently at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City.              

ARD2014 was organized by the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) headed by director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. and co-sponsored by 16 international, regional, and national organizations and agencies, academic institutions, and government and private entities.               

The conference was attended by more than 400 scientists, economists, academics, government policymakers, local government executives, farmer-leaders and practicing farmers,  representatives of civil society organizations, and other stakeholders from 22 countries in Asia and the Pacific, North America, and Europe.               

Expounding on “Attracting Youth to Agriculture in Asia”, Sibayan asserted that the young people in rural communities would go into  farming,  if agriculture could  provide decent livelihoods, and if it could  be a “wealth multiplier”.

She also stressed the need for  capital investments in family farms.               

Sibayan, the youngest among the conference’s 65 speakers and resource persons, noted that agriculture is not attractive to the youth because income is low, work is unstable, the risk is high, and prospects are not bright.

According to Sibayan, there is “no pride and dignity in farming”, self-esteem is low, rural life is boring, and there is “no entertainment.”               

Moreover, she said,  there is lack of rural youth organizations focusing on agriculture.               

“The youth need training, as well a the presence of mentors and motivators. They need to be provided with basic resources, especially land, capital, and equipment to make farming less tedious work and be viable and sustainable, “ she stressed.               

Small-scale farmers feed 70 percent of the world’s population (majority of them are in Asia and the Pacific), she said.

She said that the United Nations’ declaration of 2014  as International Year of Family Farming IYFF) is a recognition of the small-scale farmers’ key contribution in feeding the world and caring for it.                

“The IYFF is an opportunity to tell the world to invest in smallholder agriculture, in women in agriculture, and in the rural youth,” said Sibayan, who holds a BS in Education (major in Biological Science) degree from the Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology.              

She also cited salient findings of the “AFA Policy Research in Youth in Agriculture” stating that many young Asians are no longer interested in agriculture courses and in farming and instead migrate to cities and other countries for better-paying and higher office jobs.               

The situations in other AFA countries covered by the research are better, Sibayan said.                

For instance, Vietnam has a “green summer program” and another that encourages young farmers to stay in their land. There is also a youth committee with representation in leadership.

South Korea provides loans with only one percent interest rate to revitalize young farmers, while Taiwan has its “New Farmer Program”.