With children of farmers now choosing to work in factories, business-process outsourcing (BPO) firms, offices, abroad or even putting up their microenterprises to earn a living, farming has practically become a dying vocation.
But SM Foundation Inc. (SMFI), through its Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) program—which teaches farmers to earn more from farming using a system that would veer them away from the boom-bust cycles of farming—has been going on for several years in the hope that by planting the seeds of farming now, the love for this calling would be renewed not just in the rural areas but also in urban settings.
With partners like Macondray for its urban-gardening program and Harbest Agriculture for its rural farm-training programs, the three-month planting/lecture and demo farm modules, and of late, even the financial literacy and business planning sessions will give the farmers a systematic approach to farming and develop a business acumen in them.
Indeed, the typical farmer keeps producing without caring where to sell their produce, practically leaving them at the mercy of traders (who also provide them production loans in exchange for their final harvest acquired at rock-bottom prices).
The modern-day farmer, which SMFI hopes to create for the future, is one who is empowered both in technology, financing and market access, thereby ensuring the sustainability of their livelihood, said Chito Macapagal, corporate affairs head and board of trustee of SMFI.
“We should raise the bar of the farmers and not make them forever a victim of their trade. They should be smart and empowered so that they can pass on their learning to their children, who will not avoid the vocation just as they are doing so now,” Macapagal said in a statement.
SMFI VP (under which KSK falls) Cristie Angeles has graduated for the first quarter this year close to a thousand rural and urban farmers, who are all determined to produce food crops not just for their personal/family needs but for the needs of all Filipinos.
The urban garden farmers who graduated from the KSK courses this year were from: Valenzuela, Parañaque, Manila and Muntinlupa, while the KSK graduates in the provinces were from Dinalupihan, Bataan (considered the most successful public-private partnership), Butuan, Santa Rosa, Laguna, and soon in Marawi, Lanao del Sur, as well.
But more provinces and cities of Metro Manila were covered by the KSK farmers training program but have yet to finish their courses and culminate it with a “harvest festival” (their graduation and awarding of certificates) where they use their produce in a cooking contest (to win cash prize) and the rest they sell among themselves and the visitors in such
Marawi, for instance, has just reeled from a six-month armed battle between government troops and renegade bandits (pushing for the establishment of a caliphate for the ISIS) where farming and livelihood are most urgent to ensure the return to normalcy of the people and the entire province.
Ensuring the sustainability of the program would rest largely on the shoulders of the trainees, who thus far have assured SMFI that they would form production/marketing clusters within their areas so that they can teach and pass on to their fellow farmers the new systems and skills they acquired.
Hopefully, just like the case in Dinalupihan, where the local government is deeply involved in ensuring that the province would be the “modern agropolis by 2022” by providing funding per production cluster and the local agriculture office would provide seeds and technical assistance, a lot more local governments would follow suit so that farming would not die in the country.