BY VINA MEDENILLA

“Where could we focus our efforts to ensure healthy, fair, and sustainable food systems?,” is the question that speakers from different sectors answered in a webinar that’s part of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 entitled, “#GoodFood4All: Spare a minute, think before you eat.” 

The webinar aims to engage the youth towards a more inclusive, sustainable, and youth-driven post-COVID recovery plan.

One of the resource persons, Attorney Patrick Velez, a parliamentary expert specialist from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), talked about the role of Filipino youth in the food systems. 

Barriers to youth engagement in farming 

The country has been facing a lot of challenges in the agriculture sector such as decreasing productivity, high production costs, and aging farmers, said Velez. Studies by different international organizations like FAO reveal that challenges that hinder the participation of the youth in agriculture are the following: limited access to information, education, land, financial services, green jobs, markets, and limited involvement in policy making and dialogue. 

They discovered that these challenges were evident from their interviews with the youth, particularly those from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). 

Velez said that one biggest hindrance is that not all youth have the land or the money to obtain an area where they can grow food, which is why they cannot pursue farming. Velez continued, “Many of them also do not [know] the new ways or methods in farming.” Moreover, not all young people can avail themselves of the available financial services in the country. For instance, Velez explained that Muslims like him are not allowed to have loans or to benefit from earning or receiving interest. 

Infrastructure in many parts of the Philippines also remains to be an obstacle that prohibits many farmers from having a direct linkage to the markets.

Possible solutions

There are “four betters” that, according to Velez, can address these challenges: better production, better nutrition, better environment, and better life. 

Velez said that nutrition is an important aspect in combating these hindrances. “If the youth do not eat nutritious food, how can they become a viable member of our society where they are part of the food production?” 

In terms of food production, Velez added that people should not only focus on food security but also look into the process during the preservation and transportation of produce to ensure that there’s lesser food loss. 

One of the initiatives for the Filipino youth is FLAG-Youth or FAO Legislative Advisory Group in the Philippines-Youth. It aims to provide a platform where they can exchange information, ideas, and opportunities “towards more focused legislative and policy measures on youth that will contribute to the freedom from hunger as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

This initiative will eventually result in drafting and advocating for regulation, bill, or law that will support youth in agriculture, youth investments in the rural economy, and ensure steadiness in family farming. 

“Through the FLAG-Youth Initiative, we engage the youth and allow them to be involved in matters that concern them.” Velez leaves a message saying, “Food security is a responsibility that requires everyone’s participation. Kung gusto niyo sigurado ang kinabukasan (If you want to be sure of the future), you have to be part of the solution.”

Watch the video here

For the continuation of this article, it tackled the Auro Chocolate, an award-winning local producer of chocolate that sources its cacao beans from Davao farmers.