LEGAZPI CITY – Who wants to be a farmer or the boss of his/her own business? Many students raised their hands as each speaker throw that very important question during the nationwide Information Caravan for the Youth held at the Albay Astrodome this city on March 7, 2019.

Over 1,000 senior high school students from private and public schools took a break from their daily classes to know what agriculture can offer during the first leg of the nationwide Caravan to promote the theme “Kabataan sa Agrikultura para sa Bayang Masagana.”

With the dwindling number of Filipino farmers whose average age is 57, the DA launches the youth caravan to persuade more youths particularly senior high school students to enroll in agriculture courses.   

Cheryll Rebeta, Albay provincial Agriculturist, in her welcome remarks, cited the youths non-interest and the ageing farmers as among the threats to the agriculture sector. That’s why the government is implementing RA 10618 or the Rural Farm Schools Act which mandated the establishment of rural farm schools as alternative delivery mode of secondary education. Ms. Rebeta cited the Albay Farmers Bountry Village in Cabangan, Camalig, Albay, a one-stop shop farmers’ complex as the LGU’s major project in support to the youth as it serves as “farm school” showcasing   production, processing and marketing. The trainings are for free as it is supported by TESDA. Students who will finish a course at this farm school will have National Certificate II on Organic Agriculture.

Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez, OIC Chief of DA 5 Field Operations Division represented DA 5 Regional Executive Director Elena B. de los Santos.   Having Bachelor of Science in Agriculture major in Horticulture as an undergraduate course, Dr. Rodriguez said that being an Agriculturist was her choice even when she was still in High School. She also discussed the business opportunities open to students who are interested in agriculture such as the interventions under the High Value Crops Development Program. She urged the students to support agriculture as it is the backbone of the economy and it supports all the sectors. “Kung walang magtatanim, walang kakainin ang mga propesyunal gaya ng doctor, inhinyero, abugado, guro at mga pulis at hindi sila magiging produktibo. Sa patuloy na pagdami ng ating populasyon, hindi makakamit ang food security kung wala tayong gagawin para iangat ang sector ng agrikultura,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rodolfo P. Estigoy, Chief Science Research Specialist of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (Philmech) discussed the different farm machineries developed by the Philmech. Also, Glenn De Peralta, Senior Science Research Specialist of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) discussed the technologies it has generated.

Other speakers included: Joseph Pacon, Alternative Head of Geomapping and Governance Unit of DA – Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) discussed digitization of agriculture; Nadine Coronado, Project Development Officer of DA – Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) discussed the various scholarship programs being offered by the BAR; Sarrah O. Sambajon, Faculty of BUCAF.

Nomer Mortega, 25 years old farmer and 4-H Club president of Caditaan, Magallanes Sorsogon also shared his experience as a multi-awarded young farmer. Mortega was DA national Gawad Saka finalist in 2016 and Jaycees International – TOFARM awardee in 2018 as National Outstanding Young Farmer. The whole day event was made colorful and lively by fun games and freebies from participating bureaus and attached agencies of DA such as BFAR and ATI. The caravan was a joint effort of the Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division based in Manila and the Regional Agricultural and Fisheries Information Section of DA 5.  (Lovella P. Guarin)