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GCARD3 and the Future of Agri (Hey! That rhymed!)

Japo facilitating a local farmers' general assembly. Photo credit: Alabat IT StaffCity Boy Turned Promdi*

“Why would a city boy travel all the way to the countryside for work?” asked some of my friends. I answered: “Well, I believe that serving the underserved communities is one way to develop the rural sector”.

In my workplace, I see the plight of the common Filipino farmer: low in income but high in debt, the land he tills is not his own and shackled by poverty. I saw it firsthand when I conducted my thesis in a third-class municipality called Buenavista in the province of Quezon here in the Philippines. I have a question that is boggling my mind ever since: Why is it that the ones who produce our food are the ones who sometimes do not have sufficient food to eat or are the ones who are below the poverty line? There must be something very wrong with the system. That's why I chose to work in the fifth class municipality of Alabat. Where else could I make the most impact to our farmers? Moreover, as an Iskolar ng Bayan** I think this is the best way to give back to the community. Coming from Metro Manila (the capital of the Philippines), it was difficult to adapt for the first few months but it got easier as time went on. In addition, nothing is more satisfying than seeing your projects come into fruition.

A Momentous Global Event

GCARD3 is a well-timed event in shaping the world’s agricultural and rural landscape in the near future. There are five themes that will be tackled in the upcoming Global Event, namely:

1.      Scaling up; from research to impact;

2.      Demonstrating results and attracting investment;

3.      Keeping science relevant and future-focused;

4.      Sustaining the business of farming, and;

5.      Ensuring better rural futures.

If given the opportunity to join this event, I can align our projects with that of GCARD3’s vision. Working closely with the farmers, I'd like to help alleviate poverty and figure out food security issues:

1. Poverty. Let me give you an example in a local context. The municipality of Alabat largely depends on the coconut industry. Right now, we have a huge project in the pipe line that would involve processing the coconut into VCO and coco sugar. This project will generate employment, provide a steady income to the coconut farmers by sourcing the raw materials from them, and increase their productivity in the farm. I think investments in agricultural development in the countryside are the BEST WAY to achieve inclusive growth. This would not only translate to development of rural families, this would also solve the problem of rural-urban migration that is rampant here in the Philippines. Moreover, I think new agriculture graduates should work or become an intern in the rural areas for at least a year to help create project proposals for agriculture development that will benefit the entire community.

2. Food insecurity is a very serious issue that needs to be talked about and addressed as soon as possible. I want to help solve food security issues through safe and responsible use of agricultural biotechnology. I want to increase the access of the farmers to the available technology that would greatly increase their productivity. I want to help erase the bad image of GM crops because I believe that in the long run, agricultural biotechnology will feed the world. Furthermore, the agricultural sciences should be the focal point in developing policies regarding food security. #SciAlly

Youth, Agriculture and Beyond

I'd like the youth to pursue agriculture. Did you know that the average age of the Filipino farmer is 57 years old – and keeps on getting older? Here in the Philippines, majority of the youth frowns upon agriculture because they always relate agriculture and farming to being poor, that’s why the youth wants to migrate to city centers to find a “real job.” How can we continue to feed the world if the youth remains apathetic to these issues? I'd like to remove the stigma in agriculture by:

·         Showcasing success stories in agriculture and introducing successful agri-based social enterprises owned and operated by young people – this can inspire the youth to engage in agribusiness;

·         Modernizing the agriculture sector by investing in critical infrastructure and equipment in the countryside and by using new innovations and technologies to raise farm productivity;

·         Inviting local celebrities to be the 'face' of agriculture – the youth looks up to role models and I think celebrities can be tapped to become the “ambassador” of agriculture in all of its forms.

·         Effective use of social media – almost all of the youth are active in social media. If we can create an engaging social media campaign or team up with well-known and influential personalities who has millions of followers then we can easily spread our message.

·         Integrating agriculture in primary education – this can spark the interest of the students in farming early on;

·         Providing scholarships in agriculture and agriculture related courses, and;

·         Using creative ways in teaching agriculture in universities and colleges.

YPARD is an amazing platform for us to create campaigns for agriculture and show its importance in our growing world; it is also a hub for like-minded people who are advocates of agricultural development.  GCARD can help steer the future of agriculture in the right direction. I believe that the youth is an untapped potential in solving our global problems. The youth has a force that can be used to achieve not only GCARD3’s vision, but also the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since the youth are getting increasingly creative and have more time and energy, it makes sense that the youth should also play a part in shaping the future with the guidance and wisdom from the older generation. No one should be left behind when planning for our future.

Get Your Swag On!

To at least inspire you, I want to share this dream of mine: During a training I attended that tackled the SDGs, our coach made us think of our greatest dream in one of the break-out sessions. I have two dreams, firstly, I dream of our marginalized farmers breaking out from poverty. I think it’s time for our farmers to live a comfortable life, but breaking them out of poverty is not enough. They must learn how to sustain their livelihood to keep themselves from falling back to poverty. This can be addressed by providing them with proper tools and knowledge, in short, building their capacities. Secondly – on a much lighter and unrelated note – I want to have my own artisanal bakery. I always loved to bake bread, pastries, cakes, and everything that can be baked! With that said, I want you guys to dream and do everything you can to achieve that dream of yours – of course without compromising your honor. So let’s all get involved and do our part! There's a lot to do but no task is big enough if we all work together! It may sound cheesy but it's true. So what are we waiting for? Let’s put the ‘swag’ in #Swagriculture!

*Promdi is a Filipino colloquial term borrowed from the English language used to describe people coming “FROM THE province”, thus PROMDI.

**Students and graduates from the University of the Philippines (UP) are called Iskolar ng Bayan (Scholar of the People/Community) because taxes help subsidize the tuition fees since UP is the premier state university.

***To learn more about Alabat Municipality, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabat,_Quezon

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Jan Paolo L. Vicente or Japo graduated from the University of the Philippines Los Banos with a degree in Agriculture major in Agricultural Extension and Rural Studies. He is 23 years old and from the capital (Metro Manila), but he is currently working as the Assistant Municipal Agriculturist/Technical Staff of the Municipality of Alabat (5-hour travel time from his hometown). He is currently handling coconut agribusiness development projects and is a member of YPARD-Philippines. 

This blog post is part of the GCARD3 Youth blogpost applications. The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.

Picture: Japo facilitating a local farmers' general assembly. Photo credit: Alabat IT Staff