THE Department of Agriculture will incentivize the youth to do farming to supplement the aging population of agriculture workers in the country through its mechanization program.

During the Agribiz Media Forum on Tuesday, November 22, Dr. Rodolfo Estigoy, spokesperson of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) under the Department of Agriculture, said there is a need to amplify efforts to encourage the youth sector in engaging with agricultural activities.

“PhilMech has an advocacy to entice the youth to go back to agriculture through mechanization. This is an advocacy program...because we have a problem now with aging farmers. The statistics show that on average, the age bracket of old farmers is between 53-58, which will have consequences in the future with regards to our food security if there is no new blood,” he said.

He also emphasized the need for rebranding Filipino farmers to show how traditional agricultural activities have been transformed into innovative and modern farming through the mechanization program.

“We need to rebrand the image of our Filipino farmers who are currently perceived as people who ride carabaos, or those who are using traditional tools, or barefooted. The new farmers now can be branded as individuals who are riding tractors with less difficulty in farming due to new tools and equipment,” he said.

Through the mechanization program of PhilMech, interested individuals aged 18 to 35 may avail of training and development initiatives to increase their farming and entrepreneurial knowledge and skills.

“There are five avenues where the youth can participate. If they are interested in repair and maintenance since many machines have already been given to farmers’ cooperatives and associations. We train the youth to repair and maintain the machinery as additional manpower. If they are currently enrolled or have finished tertiary education, they can become specialists where they will be trained for mechanization to become resource person during training provided by TESDA or alike. There’s another platform if the child of a farmer is interested, he/she may learn about entrepreneurship and will serve as a service provider in the community. He/she will be paid for labor. Also, if someone wants to be an entrepreneur, he/she may buy tractors through loans. And Grade 11 and 12 students are trained to become advocates to encourage them to choose agriculture as their college course,” Estigoy said.

To participate in the said programs, interested applicants may go directly to farmers’ cooperatives and associations with the necessary machinery and fill out the registration forms. They may also directly visit PhilMech’s website to register.

The shift of focus on the youth sector to encourage greater engagement in agricultural activities is part of PhilMech’s Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund Mechanization Program.

Other PhilMech’s mechanization programs include agricultural machinery distribution, rice extension services program, enhancing technical capability program, enterprise development program, and other support services. JDC