By LOVELLA P. GUARIN
San Agustin, Pili, Camarines Sur – Digital agriculture, production of livestock and poultry, fisheries and aquaculture such as mudcrab fattening, fish processing, bee keeping, processing pili, fruits, other nuts, spices, and vegetables such as pastillas, and flavored taho. Rabbit raising, lettuce production, hydroponics, seedling production, mushroom culture, vermiculture and vermicast production.
These are only a few among the 182 enterprises funded by the Department of Agriculture Young Farmer Challenge (YFC) Program and are now being managed by 230 young farmer individuals in the region.
Now on its fourth year, the YFC has provided a total of P15.37 M financial grant to YFC beneficiaries in Bicol from 2021 to 2023. The grant served as start up capital fund which financed agri-fishery enterprises. In 2021, 58 youths won P50,000 grant each at the provincial level, while 3 winners at the regional level received P150,000 each. In 2022, 81 young farmers qualified for the provincial level where 61 individual young farmers were given P50,000 grant each, while 20 group enterprises were given P100,000 grant. In 2023, the YFC Start-Up (open category) awarded P80,000 financial grant each to six awardees each from the six provinces and three from independent cities, resulting to 39 enterprises. Also in 2023, the YFC Upscale awarded P300,000 grant to each of the three regional winners and Angelica Porto of Tigaon, Camarines Sur, one of the three winners made it as national finalist in the national YFC Upscale competition. There was also the YFC Start-Up Intercollegiate competition where one enterprise – the Piliman Food Products from CBSUA Pili, Cam. Surwas awarded with P150,000 financial grant.
The YFC Program which started in 2021 is being undertaken by the DA Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service in collaboration with the Office of Senator Imee Marcos and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). In the regions, it is being implemented by the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD).
The YFC program offers financial grant assistance to encourage young breed of farmers to help in ensuring the country’s food security.
Adelina A. Losa, Chief of AMAD said that to capacitate these young entrepreneurs, the YFC Program offers coaching, mentoring, product promotion and technical assistance in their registration for Food and Drug (FDA) Administration.
One of the provincial level awardees of YFC is Mark Jay Sanchez, 26 year old young farmer from Libon, Albay. He finished BS Info System from the Bicol University Polangui campus. He used to work at an electronics company in Laguna but he decided to take over their family farm later on. “Pinili ko po talaga ang farming kahit malayo sa natapos kong kurso dahil hilig ko po talaga ang pagsasaka. Nakakatulong ako sa aking pamilya at minsan mataas talaga ang kita kahit medyo nakakapagod.”
“High School pa lang po ako ay tumutulong na ako sa tatay ko sa mga gawain sa bukid, pagkagaling ko sa school at tuwing walang pasok. Kaya naman napamahal na po talaga sa akin ang pagsasaka,” Mark said.
He cultivates a 2-hectare irrigated area in Libon, Albay which he planted with rice. The family is also renting a 2-hectare idle land in Balangibang, Polangui which is currently planted with high value crops such as eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon and other crops.
In 2023, Mark was among the six YFC provincial awardees from the province of Albay. He received P80,000 financial grant which he used to buy 200 heads Peking ducks which now raise at his residence in San Agustin, Libon. He was also able to buy incubator out of his prize.
Since last week of December he already harvested over 5 metric tons watermelon which he sold at P30.00 per kilo to nearby local supermart chain and at the public market.
He admits that the YFC Program has drastically changed his life. He was given an opportunity to share his knowledge to fellow young farmers who visit his farm.
“Malaking tulong po ang YFC sa akin dahil nagkaroon po ako ng panibagong puhunan sa aking pagsasaka. Nakabili ako ng ducklings, incubator at naipagawa ko din ang kulungan nila,” he enthused.
His ducks are now starting to produce eggs and later on, meat.
“Hindi lang po kami nabigyan ng start up capital, but at the same time tinuturuan po kami ng YFC kung paano mag put up ng Negosyo at kung paano ito palaguin,” Mark added.
Last December, Mark was one of the 29 YFC awardees in Bicol who completed the Mentor Me, Idol Season 2. The event was a five-day mentorship seminar organized by the DA Bicol AMAD in partnership with the Cam. Sur Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CSCCI) to equip the young farmers with the essential skills in managing business.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa YFC Program dahil mas lalo ko pong napagtibay ang aking tiwala sa sarili. Marami na din po mga bumibisita sa aking farm at naibabahagi ko po sa kanila ang aking kaalaman,” Mark concluded.
Average Age of Farmers down to 49 years old
Innovative programs like the Young Farmers Challenge indeed entice the young generation to engage in agriculture. Their numbers not only helped boost the economy and helped in ensuring food security but more importantly, lowered the average age of the farmers in the country.
At the national level, the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) National Directorate cited in a report that the average age of the RSBSA-registered farmers in the Philippines is down to 49 years old, a far cry from previous reports that the average of farmers was 57 years old.
In her Senate Bill No 180, or the “Act Establishing the Young Farmers and Fisherfolk Challenge Program…”Senator Imee Marcos cited that the youth comprises more than 40% of the whole population of the Philippines.
DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla said that in the Bicol Region 31,525 single agri youth are registered in the RSBSA comprising 6% of the farmers registered in the registry. (with reports from Patrocinio Collao I, YFC focal person)