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SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija - A study of the Philippine Rice Research Institute says that despite pressures to go to cities or abroad for work, youths from agriculture-dependent families have a desire to stay connected to agriculture. Cultivating that connection may be crucial to developing agriculture in the Philippines without necessarily keeping them as farmers in the traditional sense.
The study by Jaime A. Manalo IV, titled, "Really, they don’t want to farm?: Challenging existing orthodoxies on youth perceptions on rice farming in the Philippines", challenges a wide perception that farm youths want to leave the rural environment. This perception has fed fears that the country might have a scarcity of future food producers.
But in Aurora and Albay provinces, the study found that farmers' children, while having expressed some desire to go abroad, also have a "heart for the farming family and vision for the farm." Manalo, a development communication specialist, said that many of his research participants want to be connected to rice farming in various capacities, if those options were available.
"There’s this belief that the younger generation is not interested in farming, which resulted in almost zero efforts to engage the youth on rice farming. This needs rethinking as many of my research participants said, 'Once a farmer, always a farmer,'" Manalo said.
He recommended the crafting of initiatives that will enable youths to perform their tasks in school, while they remain connected to rice farming.
"We should regard youth as future rice farming investors. The educated youth could be employed as they will have the goods to finance the input-intensive rice farming operations. We need rice farming investors, and thus we need to engage the youth as early as now if we share this idea," he said.
With the results, Manalo proposed that the youth be mobilized as infomediaries for farmers who would access information and communications technology (ICT), particularly for those who have anxieties in using the device and other ICTs.
He said this initiative would aid farmers in accessing information from the Internet that could help improve their yield and reduce operating cost.
“There is wealth of information from the websites of Department of Agriculture, International Rice Research Institute, and PhilRice. How will they access those information if they have to grapple with so many issues such as absence of decent computer access points, and computer and functional illiteracy,” Manalo said.
Manalo also said students must be aware that they could do something for their farmer-parents, and that farmer-parents should know that their children could do something for them.
The proposal to mobilize the youth as infomediaries for their parents, which was drawn from the findings of this study, can, if proven effective, serve as a new strategy in extension.
He added that more innovative extension strategies are needed to complement the 20,000 rice extension workers currently serving more than two million rice farmers.
This study, co-authored by associate professor Elske van de Fliert of the Centre for Communication and Social Change at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia won the best paper award for the technology extension, dissemination and education category during the 42nd Crop Science Society of the Philippines Scientific Conference, April 16-21.
DA-PhilRice is a government-owned and –controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding, cost-reducing, and environment-friendly technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.