Farmers are the backbone of the agriculture sector. But with most Filipino farmers already in their late 50s, there is a growing concern about the sustainability of the sector and potential threats to the country’s food security and economy.
Young Filipinos are not keen on pursuing a career in agriculture due to perceptions of a low-paying and physically demanding job. The rise of technology and variety of career options, the declining contribution of the agriculture sector to the country’s gross domestic product, and mass emigration of the Filipino youth further discourages them from entering the industry. Youth is the key to the future of agriculture, and we need to ensure that the sector continues to thrive for generations to come.
To encourage the youth to join the sector, Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA), its Digital Agriculture Working Group chaired by PLDT Group and Smart Communications, and the University of the Philippines Los Baños Technology Transfer and Business Development Office organized a learning session featuring agri-tech start-ups Agbeam Farms, Inc., Agrabah, GoEden, and Farmvocacy Inc. to showcase different opportunities for the youth in the agriculture sector.
“Opportunities are not limited to the farm level. There are a plethora of exciting opportunities in the whole agri-food space including processing, packaging, distribution, transportation, marketing, sales, and agribusiness among others,” said PLDT and Smart AVP and Head of Stakeholder Management Team and PPSA Digital Agriculture WG Lead Stephanie Orlino.
A PART OF THE SOLUTION
Farmvocacy Inc. CEO and Founder Vincent Mendoza kicked off the discussion by sharing some of the biggest issues in the sector where start-ups can contribute in finding solutions.
“The Philippines is reported to be among the leaders of greenhouse gasses in rice production. If we don’t address problems in our agriculture sector today, there's a big chance that we will have higher inflation in the coming years. If we act now, we can further increase our food requirements through climate smart farming,” cautioned Mendoza.
By adopting an inclusive business model Farmvocacy Inc., a fintech platform, promotes climate-smart, environmental friendly, and high yielding farming systems for rice growing with the goal of boosting Filipino farmers’ income.
The session also touched on other gaps and inefficiencies including farmer’s low productivity and yield, access to information, stable market channel, access to financing, and the need for climate-smart farming systems.
GOEden President and CEO Julieane Camile Lacsina believes that solutions should be inclusive and the digital transformation of agriculture should leave no farmer behind. She founded GOEden, a one-stop-shop e-commerce platform for the efficient delivery of agricultural inputs and services, with the goal of making agriculture accessible to every Filipino citizen.
“We are doing this because we want to create digital footprints for our farmers. Our farmers are unbanked and don’t have access to information at this time of the digital age. We have to include them in the picture and that’s what we do in GOEden,” said Lacsina.
A LEAP OF FAITH
Jojo Gumino did not have a background in agriculture and was working in the human resource industry when she decided to shift careers to agriculture. Gumino and her husband founded Agrabah to empower Filipino farmers and fisherfolks to earn fair profit through online platforms that connect them to partners and consumers.
“At Agrabah, we believe that agriculture is one of the world’s most important technologies. With our interventions, we’ve been able to look at innovations to help rearrange the system and provide better ways so that farmers have higher profit margins, less food waste along the chain, and they can produce better quality of supply,” said Gumino.
Agbeam Farms, Inc. Founder and President Luis Macalincag built his business with help from his background in Business and Finance. Agbeam Farms, Inc. focuses on expanding dragon fruit farming in the country. Macalincag thinks that while a degree in agriculture is helpful, it should not stop the youth with different backgrounds from venturing career opportunities in agriculture.
“If you feel that agriculture is calling you in any shape or form, don’t be afraid to try,” said Macalincag.
PAVING THE WAY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The Philippine Statistics Authority reports that the agriculture sector employs 24.5% of the workforce and recently incurred the largest increase in employed persons. Although there are positive indications for the future of the sector, coordinated efforts are still necessary to curb concern over the youth’s declining interest in agriculture. The government, NGOs, and private sector organizations must work together to provide support and resources to the youth and young farmers, including access to finance, education, and mentorship programs.
“UPLB is committed to be future proof and contribute in ensuring that the country is food secure, resilient, and sustainable. We cannot do this alone so we hope that after today’s session, our students were inspired to consider a career in agriculture,” said University of the Philippines Los Baños Chancellor Jose V. Camacho, Jr.
It's high time that we motivate the youth to participate in agriculture. Empowering young people to take an active role in agriculture is essential for the sector's sustainability and for addressing global food security challenges. It is important to provide them with the necessary resources and support to succeed and contribute to a more resilient and productive agricultural sector.