By Roi Lomotan
DUMAGUETE CITY (PIA) – Small farms are important for the country’s food sufficiency.
This is one of the main points Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, highlighted in her speech during the 19th Dairy Congress and Expo held recently at the Negros Oriental Convention Center here.
According to the United Nations (UN), the hope for attaining food sufficiency does not only rely on corporate farms but in developing and sustaining small family farms as well, Villar said.
UN also predicted that in 2050, farmers must produce 70 percent more food to meet the demand for food consumption worldwide.
The lady senator said it will be difficult to achieve this target if the farmers will not maintain their small farms.
With this, Villar boosted the morale of farmers belonging to small holder sector by stressing that they are the key for a food secured future.
“Do not believe (those who say) that small farmers have no role in food sufficiency. We should take upon ourselves to sustain and encourage small farms to continue so that our children and grand children will not starve,” she pointed out.
One way to achieve this is to encourage the young people to be engaged in farming.
“How do you convince our children to continue our farms? You need to enable them to earn a reasonable income in their farms,” she said.
“It is very important to teach them how to earn from their small farms so they will continue their small farms and we will have enough food in the future,” Villar added.
Based on the study made by the Philippine Development Studies, the reason why farmers have a low income is lack of technology, lack of mechanization and lack of financial literacy or business sense.
“If you look at these, it’s about education,” she noted.
Villar shared that there is P500 million peso scholarship funds which has been put in the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) intended for those who will take three month agricultural training.
“Those who would like to teach farming and how to make farms profitable you have to get accredited with TESDA so that TESDA will pay the tuition of those who will enroll in you,” she said.
Villar also encouraged farmers who have the skill and capability to teach agriculture to convert their farms into farm schools and apply for accreditation at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
She explained that farmers can earn additional income when they convert their farm into farm schools and teach farming and agriculture.
Villar believes that establishing a farm school in every town will be ideal so that small farmers will learn how to do their farming with the right technology, right mechanization and with business sense so they will know if they gaining or losing.
One important tip she shared among farmers is that they should never be afraid to apply for a loan from lending institutions or cooperatives or through government-owned LandBank.
However, she discouraged them from borrowing money from agents offering “5-6” loan scheme, saying this would only lead the business into bankruptcy because of the high daily interest rate it imposes.
Aside from this, the senator also urged other State Colleges and Universities (SUCs) to offer agriculture related courses.
She noted that there are 111 SUCs with 454 campuses spread throughout the country. This translates to one campus in every three towns.
Villar emphasized that if every campus will offer an agriculture-related course, it will go a long way in developing the country’s agriculture.
Through this, Villar hopes that people will see the importance of sustaining small farms and more people will realize that there is good opportunities in agriculture. (ral/PIA7-Negros Oriental/This article was originally published at PIA website on April 18, 2016)