By Rita dela Cruz, DA StratComms

Looking at young millennials as the future of Philippine agriculture, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to engage 900 fresh graduates (batch 2019-2020) as ‘frontliners’ to assist in the implementers of agriculture programs in each congressional district nationwide.

“We need young blood in agriculture. They have the defining attributes when it comes to utilizing modern agriculture. They are well connected through electronic devices that can help modernize farming and fishing activities,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who has been advocating for the involvement of the youth in the agri-fishery sector.

The DA chief said that an initial P100-million budget will be allotted to lure millennials and expedite the initiative.

“Our millennials will be tapped as on-the-job trainees or OJTs for about six months, given an attractive allowance, and later we will urge them to get employed and detailed at each congressional district under the DA-Agricultural Program Coordinating Offices (APCOs),” said Secretary Dar.

Each province has a DA-APCO that coordinates with local government units in the implementation of agricultural banner programs — rice, corn, high-value crops, livestock (small and large ruminants) and poultry. It makes recommendations and conducts monitoring services to ensure that national and regional DA policies and programs are effectively and efficiently cascaded at the local level.

“Under the mentorship of APCOs, the millennial OJTs will also serve as ‘infomediaries’ or information providers of various DA programs to farmers and ruralfolk using information and communication technologies (ICTs). Eventually, when their OJT stint is over we will ask them to develop their respective agri-fishery business plan to be pursued as a project in their own localities,” said Dar.

The DA chief added that “by engaging the youth as infomediaries we will be able to widen their mindset for farming to be more progressive.”

Although Dar has been advocating for the engagement of the youth in the agriculture sector, he is not foregoing the crucial contributions of the experienced farmers whose wisdom and knowledge have accumulated for generations.

“The youth maybe ICT-savvy but, they still need the elders to pass their time-tested wisdom and experience in farming. That is why mentorship is also crucial in this endeavor,” Dar said.

The initiative is being tied up with the DA’s Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (KAYA), a loan program launched in January 2020 to entice young Filipinos to engage in farming and fishery ventures and agribusiness and food processing enterprises.

Under the management of the DA-Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), the KAYA financing program, with total funding of P1B, lends P300,000 to P500,000 per borrower, payable in five years at zero interest. Interested individuals, ages 18-30 years old, should present a business plan for review and assessment. Once validated and approved, the DA-ACPC will assign a mentor to assist the borrower.

The corps of mentors will come from DA partner state universities and colleges, non-government organizations, and the private sector.

The DA chief said that the DA-ACPC’s KAYA credit program forms part of the strategies of the government to address the ageing population of Filipino farmers.

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