Sixty-five percent of Filipino farmers believe their children would be better off going to college and work in cities or abroad rather than engage in farming.
This is according to the study “Aging Filipino Rice Farmers and Their Aspirations for Their Children” by Florencia G. Palis of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, which appeared in the Philippine Journal of Science (PJS), a publication of Science and Technology Information Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-STII).
It said 65 percent of farmers believe their children will not have a future if they become rice farmers.
It also said most farmers want their children to obtain a college education so they can work on non-farming jobs in urban areas here or abroad.
Only 35 percent wanted their children to be rice farmers.
“The risk associated with rice farming as a means of livelihood further discourages parent farmers to aspire for their children to be like them. The uncertainty in yield and income is real to them and they attribute it to unpredictable weather situations, unstable output price and input costs, and natural disasters like heavy rains, floods, and drought, including pest and disease infestations,” Dr. Palis explained.
“My waist and back are painful, especially during and after transplanting the rice seedlings. I need to bear these pains so that I can provide some food for my family,” one informant, Aling Tasya (not her real name) told Dr. Palis.
Tatay Berto (not his real name), another informant, recounted, “My grandson, a vocational graduate, worked in the Middle East. He gives monthly support to his parents. He already bought a rice field and his parents are managing it. My daughter’s family is no longer borrowing money to use as capital in their farm production. They have also improved their house.”
The study stated the non-farming jobs are seen to be better than farm labor.
If there are farmers who want their children to follow in their footsteps, they are more likely older farmers who want someone in the family managing their farm and continuing the tradition.
The research also finds that Filipino rice farmers are trapped in the cycle of poverty since most of them have insufficient capital to cultivate rice.
The study added that farmers often brand themselves as borrowers or “mangungutang”.
With high input costs, they are forced to borrow money from informal lenders who charge them high-interest rates, or traders who require them to sell their produce immediately at a low after harvest.
“There is a need to pay attention to rural services for agricultural extension including hassle free and practical mechanisms of providing capital to farmers,” according to Dr. Palis.
She said agricultural extension should not only focus on dissemination of technological innovations but social innovations to achieve impacts in improving the lives of Filipino farming households and farming communities.
In this manner, farmers and their children may aspire for farming occupation or business if it has a better pay-off.
Complementing the study was a farmer household survey conducted among 923 farmers who were randomly selected from three provinces representing each of the three big islands: Isabela for Luzon, Iloilo for the Visayas, and Agusan del Norte for Mindanao.
The survey included in-depth interviews and focus group discussions on the lives and situations of Filipino farmers.
The overall average age of farmers was 53 years old, ranging from 50 to 59 years at the average age level in the three covered provinces, and 16 to 89 years at the individual age level.
Majority of them had elementary education, and on average they spent only eight years in school, or an equivalent level of 2nd year high school before quitting.
The number of years they are engaged in farming ranges between 22 to 30 years.
There were more men farmers at 70 percent than women farmers at 30 percent, and mostly are married at 85 percent.
The average household size was five and the average number of children was four.