Opposition Senator Francis N. Pangilinan on Friday, August 21, said that the youth are catalysts for positive change in the agriculture sector.
Pangilinan stressed this during the online launching of the Agriculture Students Association of the Philippines (ASAP), a confederation of agriculture students from 11 colleges and universities all over the country.
“This is a laudable undertaking. This is an organization that needs to be supported and needs to become successful if we are to turn agriculture around in the country and modernize agriculture finally to address poverty and our security,” Pangilinan, who is a vegetable farmer and an advocate of farmers and fisher folk welfare, said.
Lou Zarcal, of De La Salle University, ASAP founding member, said that the organization was created to provide a platform for the youth to discuss important issues, innovations, and recommendations that are pivotal for sustainable agriculture development.
ASAP seeks to establish a network of advocates committed to agricultural development.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who was also at the online launch, said that the organization is a “formidable platform to entice and encourage the younger generation to go into agriculture and agribusiness.”
“We need to harness the potential and strength in you because we need to make Philippine agriculture competitive. Ito ay labanan na among nations and that’s why tayo dapat iangat na natin ang pag-asikaso sa agrikultura and we need the younger generation to take the lead (This is now the competition among nations, why we need to increase our efforts in taking care of agriculture),’’ he added.
The agriculture secretary also highlighted the importance of the tech- and innovation-savvy of the youth in making Philippine agriculture competitive.
JT Solis, co-founder and CEO of Mayani, said “it is very important for the youth to participate not just because of continuity but because of the potential to bring agriculture to the next level through technology because we’re digital natives when it comes to technology.”
Mayani is an impact-driven agri-food supply chain platform that currently connects over 1,000 farmers to more than 5,000 consumers in the Philippines.
Pangilinan, who was Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization in 2014-2015, said ageing farmers and lack of youth engagement in farming are among the challenges faced by the sector.
He said that farmers are considered “endangered species” because the average age of farmers range from 57-60 years old.
ASAP is now composed of students from De La Salle University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Sta. Mesa, University of Santo Tomas, Cavite State University-Main Campus, Central Luzon State University, Mariano Marcos State University, University of the Philippines-Los Baños, Cebu Technological University, West Visayas State University, Central Mindanao University, and Western Mindanao State University.