Taiwanese 'agri envoy' to Pinoy youth: There is future in farming

WITH food security wholly dependent on agriculture, farming indeed is the world's present and future. However, with an aging farmer population and a growing lack of interest in rural communities pursuing this line of work, numerous countries in the Philippines are faced with the huge task of encouraging a new generation of farmers—especially coming from the youth—to engage in agriculture.

Claire Huang, a young Taiwanese agribusiness student who recently visited Philippine farms under the 2023 Taiwan Youth Agricultural Ambassadors (TYAA) program, believes young Filipinos will play a significant role in sustaining the sector's local front in the coming years.

Huang said that, coupled with innovation and the use of technology, the potential for farmers to increase their yields and boost revenue is high.

"I think there's a future in farming," the Taiwanese student said, as she recalled a time witnessing how product innovation helped an aging farming town in Taiwan sell its mangoes and bananas.

She shared that the average age of people in the town was about 65 years old.

"Every day, I would see the farmers bring their [mango and banana produce] and try to sell them, but there's no main road crossing in that town so no one is actually passing by often," she narrated. "Everyone's producing the same fruits, so they don't need to buy products from each other. It was incredibly sad, because I see them every day and I know they're trying to make a living."

The company where she once served as an intern bought a batch of local mangoes, and used them to make jams.

"The mango jams, compared to fresh mangoes, have a longer shelf life…We also gave it a really nice packaging, and we made 900 jars and sold 500 within one month," she said. "That was the time I knew I could do something."

Huang continued: "The local farmers were pleased with the product, and I really thought: 'Wow, I can make an impact in this area, and this is very meaningful.' That was the time I knew choosing to study agribusiness is the right thing for me."

Sharing best practices

HUANG came with 23 other "agricultural youth envoys" to the Philippines last month. They shared best farming and agribusiness insights with local stakeholders.

The delegates included students and experts on fruit and vegetable cultivation, organic farming, agricultural economics, and aquaculture.

The TYAA program, which ran last month, allowed the 24 to engage with officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA), International Rice Research Institute or IRRI, Southeast Asia Regional Center for Graduates Study and Research in Agriculture or SEARCA, and Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology or DOST-PCAARRD.

They also interacted with farmers from the Tabon San Jose Farmers' Association and Harbest Agribusiness Corp's. executives.

Alarming survey

IN the Philippines, a 2020 research study by retired University of the Philippines anthropology professor Florencia Palis said there is a growing preference among Filipino youth to work abroad than to farm.

The survey also found that the majority of the farmers themselves encourage their children to "stay away" from farming.

At least 597, or 64.7 percent, of the 923 surveyed for the study said they "do not want" their children to become rice farmers like them—majority of whom think they would not have a future in the fields, while a portion said their kids are not interested in farming.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., who once led the Agriculture Department, had been encouraging the youth to help increase the sector's productivity.

The government previously launched the "Young Farmers Challenge," which offers financial grants for youths who would engage in new agri-fishery enterprises.

The DA also continues to offer scholarships for agriculture-related courses.