Sixteen Bicolano youths who have recently completed their four-year course in agriculture and related fields have qualified to the recently launched program of the Department of Agriculture called Mentoring and Attracting Youths in Agribusiness or MAYA. Referred to as MAYA Interns these youths with age range between 20 to 30 years old are now deployed to different operating units of the DA Bicol regional office. They will have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills within a period of 24 weeks through experiential learning while at the same time give them the opportunity to put into immediate use the knowledge and skills they have already acquired from the academe and from their own stock knowledge. The DA will provide them a monthly allowance of P20,000 each.

The program is being aggressively pushed by Agriculture Secretary William Dar to address the problem of aging breed of farmers and non interest of youth in agriculture. “With an aging population of farmers and fisherfolk, we must continuously motivate, inspire and capacitate younger Filipinos to take on the challenge to help feed the nation, and earn in the process. Let us show them that there is indeed money and bright future in Agriculture,” Secretary Dar said.

The program is being coordinated by the DA’s Bureau of Agricultural Research. It aims to develop young Filpinos into agri-fishery entrepreneurs or “agripreneurs” or possibly technocrats also priming them to be future leaders of the DA or their respective communities and LGUs.

During the simple launching ceremony held at the DA regional office Regional Technical Director (RTD) for Research and Regulations Dr. Edgar Madrid pointed out that the word maya is usually associated with the small bird or tree sparrow which is found everywhere and considered pest by most farmers because they feed on seeds and grains especially palay. But he underscored that the MAYA program of the DA is intended to engage the youths in agriculture and make them productive and prosperous.

For her part RTD for Operations Luz R. Marcelino said that the MAYA Program was conceptualized to address the big decline in number of enrollees in agriculture courses. She explained that the program adopts a holistic approach, that is, the experiential learning for the interns will not only focus on increasing production but also on making farming a viable and profitable enterprise or business.

This year MAYA interns include 11 agriculture graduates from the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) in Camarines Sur; 1 from the Camarines Norte State College (CNSC); 3 from Sorsogon State College (SSC) and 1 from Dr. Emilio B. Espinosa, Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology in Masbate. The interns are as follows: from CBSUA – Princess E. Arcilla, Darwin I. Barrameda, May B. Basilan, Almira R. Billones, Ivy B. Dela Pacion, Alyssa B. Narvaez, Jomar S. Pagador, Domingo B. Sabularse, Jr., Roberto O. San Agustin, Jr., Juliana Louise N. Santos, and Paolo R. Pardiñas; from CNSC – John Paul J. Baytan; from SSC- Ailyn Bertumen, Cherry Mae B. Mallo, and Melvin M. Paclibar; from DEBESMSCAT – Joefe C. Salvador.

Ailyn Bertumen an Animal Science major who graduated from SSC in Sorsogon has previously worked in a Goat Ranch sees this MAYA program as an opportunity for her to “get out of the box”, enhance her knowledge and skills and discover new opportunities for future employment perhaps in the government agency like the DA or this could be a track that could lead to entrepreneurial undertaking of her own.

“Magaling ang mind set ni Secretary Dar, hindi niya kinaligtaan kaming mga young aspiring entrepreneurs. He recognizes yung kakayahan naming na maka contribute sa agricultural development,” Ailyn said.

John Paul Baytan who is an agriculture graduate from CSNC in Camarines Norte was gearing up to apply his knowledge in a private agricultural corporation in Nueva Ecija after passing and complying with all the requirements. But for some unclear reasons he was informed that his employment will have to be deferred. But the MAYA Program rekindled his enthusiasm. Having grown-up in a business oriented-family he now realizes agriculture and business could indeed go hand in hand. “Na realize ko ngayon na may pera sa agrikultura. Yung three hectares naming lupa pwede kong idevelop. Marami palang mga programa at assistance mula sa DA at iba pang agencies na available para sa gusto mag engage saa agribusiness. At dapat baguhin na yung mindset ng mga mellenials na ang farming o agriculture is a lowly or “dirty’ undertaking kasi kailangan magbungkal ng lupa.” John Paul shared.

The regional coordinator of MAYA program in Bicol is Corazon A. Orbon, chief of the Research Division assisted by Pedro Oliver. (EMILY B. BORDADO/photo credits: Emil Pasumbal)