In a recently published article on a national circulation and in an interview with UPLB’s College of Agriculture Dean Dr. Domingo Angeles by a national radio-station, concerns on the dwindling number of Filipino farmers was raised.
According to the 2013 data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), from the total employment of 38.1 million persons, only 11.84 million were employed in the agriculture sector. Moreover, there is a significant decline from those employed in agriculture, from 33% in 2011 it was down to 31% in 2013. Beyond those trivial figures, the most important thing to ask right now is why?
I agree with some of the points on the article and with the interview with Dean Angeles, indeed farming is not a lucrative job. Despite of being an agricultural country, farming in the Philippines became less and less popular, marginalized and discriminated.
This very low appreciation in farming can be traced by the backward culture that only people with “lower intelligence” are suited for this job. I was once a victim of this problematic thinking back in my high school days. I can still vividly remember my encounter with a teacher who was assigned to facilitate our elective courses for our TLE subject during our junior year in high school. I signed for the agriculture elective since I was interested to learn more about farming for practical reasons living in a rural area.
However the teacher returned my slip and told me that I was not allowed to take up the Agriculture elective, she told me “Dong bright man ka, dili pwede sa network class mokuha og agri nga elective, kay manghornal lang man na.” (You cannot take this elective since you belong to the top section.)
I tried to explain that even those brilliant kids have a bright future in agriculture, and I cited a scenario that what if I passed UPLB and will took an agriculture course to debunk her claim that agriculture was only for those from lower sections and not for us who belongs to the DOST curriculum. Well, bureaucracy killed my argument, I ended enrolling for a course in drafting.
I agree, there is a need to change this backward culture, we need to raise the consciousness of people how to value our farmers. But how can we effectively raise the appreciation of our people to promote farming while there is a constant neglect from our government?
How can we convince people to pursue farming when they themselves do not have sufficient lands to till? Last Friday, farmers asking for land reform were brutally dispersed by the police. The existing land reform and extension program expired this year proving its inutility, and to this date 7 out of 10 farmers remain landless.
How can we promote farming while our lands are being offered to big multi-national mining companies? At present, more than 12,000 hectares of land in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental are being threatened by the Agusan Petroluem Mining.
How can we promote farming while our farmers were consistently victimized by militarization in the countryside, illegally detained and brutally murdered? For seven months now agriculturist and NGO worker Dominiciano Muya remain behind bars for false charges. Justice was still elusive for the families of Mandaya father and son that were mistakenly attacked and murdered by state forces in New Bataan Compostela Valley on their way home after harvesting their corn produce.
The dwindling number of farmers in our country is nothing but a result of a landlord fascist regime.
I do agree that we need to combat the backward culture and promote farming as a decent job, but there is a greater need to struggle against landlessness and the prevalent culture of impunity in this agricultural country.