- Cristina Sison
The Filipino youth will have an essential role post-Taal
Several people have asked about the youth program of UP Rural High School, one of the beneficiaries of the fundraising concert where Filipino Tenor, Mr. Lemuel Cuento (UPRHS Class’88) will perform. While there is much interest in Lemuel’s operatic singing, patrons are just as supportive of the youth program for agriculture.
UP Rural High School under the leadership of Principal Greg Ardales, Jr. will initiate the youth program to encourage students to pursue Agriculture-related courses in the university level. Why is this important? Because less and less students are taking up agriculture. Even students from farming households are opting for careers away from agriculture because common knowledge is that other professions such as law, accounting, medicine, information technology and the like are more lucrative.
Agriculture plays a crucial role in a country’s economy, more important, in sustaining its food supply. In the Philippines, a steady decline in agriculture production has been reported and is relatively lower than neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Agriculture in the Philippines contributes to as much as 20% of the country’s GDP, and provides 25% of the total work force, second only to the services sector. While progressive economies, including those of China and Japan, followed an “agriculture-led industrialization pathway” that facilitated their industrialization, the economic transformation through agriculture in the Philippines has yet to reach the same level of economic growth and development achieved by other Asian countries, where agriculture has significantly contributed to household food security. In the case of the Philippines, much focus has been laid on manufacturing and services while agriculture continues to be a small part in the country’s gross national product (GDP). According to the last three national nutrition surveys of the Food Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), farming households in the Philippines remain the most food insecure.
With the growing population of the Philippines, agriculture will continue to play an important role in feeding more Filipinos.
The government included national agricultural development in the Philippine Development Plan 2017 to 2022 to help increase productivity and improve market access especially among small farmers (1). Alongside economic opportunities, increased access to value chains, strengthening of existing extension systems, the development plan provides opportunities for farmers to have access to technology, which will require increased investments in research and development for production and post-harvest technology. This entails highly skilled manpower and human resource with the strong capability to conduct research and development in agriculture and related fields. Therefore, the country will need more experts in agriculture.
Aside from the food production, agriculture will be crucial as the country grapples with severe calamities. The Philippines has experienced the worst of the worst brought by super typhoons, earthquakes, and now volcanic eruptions. One can not separate agriculture from the issues concerning the environment. While these are two different disciplines, their science is very closely related and cannot be treated separately. In the wake of the Taal volcanic eruption, losses in agriculture has reached Php 578 million (https://www.philstar.com/nation/2020/01/15/1984862/taal-volcano-eruption-agriculture-damage-hits-p578-million) and is expected to increase in the next few days. This means a loss in the country’s food production, income for farmers, and an increase in food prices in the market, therefore, limiting food access to families, especially those who are already experiencing financial constraints. When Pinatubo erupted, damage to crop, livestock and fisheries was estimated at Php 1.4 billion. Overall damage from Pinatubo impacted livelihood, social services, infrastructure, trade, and natural resources for more than a decade. Now, more than ever, the country will need to invest in its agriculture sector and the only way this can be made possible is if it has manpower to do so.
Fifteen to twenty years from now, today’s youth will be professionals. Our present day is a good time to invest in our future professionals who will be faced with the long term impacts of our current calamities such as the Taal volcanic eruption, which has already caused much devastation to livestock, fisheries, and food crops. In fact, no matter what field or career, it would be good to have some, if not, basic understanding of agriculture because it affects several sectors of the economy. If we are unable develop the agricultural resources, the source of food of the population, the country may end up in a very hungry state.
Thus, educating our future professionals through the youth program (the future of our country), on what should be the most important part of our economy (that sector that nourishes our population and is the main source of income to our farmers) could help them realize that agriculture should not be taken for granted. The youth program on agriculture will expose grade 11 students to different research and non-research activities. The program will tap several experts from different organizations and institutions in state universities and colleges, as well as those from non-government and non-profit entities, to help mentor our young students. Mentoring will involve training or allowing students to participate in mini researches related to agriculture. It is expected that topics will be vast and wide, because agriculture covers all aspects of food production and food security such as food and nutrition, food technology, post harvest, plant breeding, genetics, animal science, fisheries, agricultural economics, agribusiness, development communication, marketing, information technology, education, engineering, etc!
The organizing committee for the concert featuring Lemuel Cuento, UP Rural High School and our Alumni Association are all very grateful for the support that has been shown and provided for this special event. While the Taal volcanic eruption has brought some uncertainties, more so to those residing in Batangas, the concert has become more relevant because support for the concert equates to support for the youth program on agriculture. Recently, the program has been renamed to “High School Agriculture Internship/Research Program.” It is our hope that through this program, we are able to produce future professionals who can help uplift the agriculture sector, more important, deal with the impacts of present day calamities on our food production and food security that will be felt by future generations.
Ernesto O. Brown. Retrieved from http://ap.fftc.agnet.org/ap_db.php?id=941
 FAO. Retrieved August 12, 2019, from http://www.fao.org/3/ae946e/ae946e00.htm#Contents
 Services sector is top employment in the Philippines and includes wholesale, retail trade, repair or motor vehicle and motorcycles (PSA, 2017)
 Felipe, R. B. (2013). Agriculture and Structural Transformation in Developing Asia: Review and Outlook. Metro Manila: Asian Development Bank.