There is a need for the country (Philippines) and the region (Southeast Asia) to enact policies that will attract younger people into the agriculture sector, the position of Ana P. Sibayan of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) as she presented her paper farming during the (ARD 2014) held in Manila on November 12 and 13, 2014.

The ARD Conference with the theme “Strengthening Resilience, Equity, and Integration in the ASEAN Food and Agriculture Systems.” was spearheaded by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

In May 2014, the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) held a regional sharing on youth in agriculture among its members to identify issues and problems, share initiatives, and come up with policy recommendations were drawn from national consultations, participatory researches, and the resulting policy proposals by AFA members on the issue,’ Sibayan’s preamble to her paper stated.

Most rice farmers were within (the) 40 to 59 age bracket although a high percentage of farmers aged 60 and above was noted in Camarines Sur and Iloilo,’ the study of PhilMech and the UPLB-AMDP said.

Sibayan said that while there were some initiatives such as training and support for various sustainable agriculture technologies, and programs to attract the youth into farming, several recommendations from the AFA meets were identified pertaining to capacity building, organizational development, policy advocacy, and partnership with various sectors.

Sibayan said, among others that the needed support to attract the youth to agriculture were: *Capacity building (e.g. training on constructive engagement, youth education, scholarship programs), * Research (e.g. comparative study of the use of organic and non-organic fertilizers, policy research on incentives for young farmers, research on impact of climate change), * Technical support (seeds, production techniques), * Policy advocacy promoting agriculture soft loans for young farmers, ASEAN agricultural bonk, right to seeds, campaign on land, etc.), * and Regional exchange programs (youth farmers’ gatherings, farmer exchange).

There are many issues that will affect the rural and farming sectors of the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region, and the aversion of the youth to become farmers is one critical issue that needs to be addressed in the next few years,” said Dr. Gil Saguiguit, SEARCA Executive Director.

A recent study conducted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute covering major rice-producing areas in six Asian countries showed the average age of rice farmers in Nueva Ecija is 58. On the other hand, the average of rice farmers is 55 in Suphan Buri in Thailand, 54 in Zhejiang in China, 50 in Tamil Nadu state in India, and 49 in East Java in Indonesia and Can Tho in Vietnam.

Former NEDA Director General and currently Economic Professor Dr. Cielito F. Habito was among the speakers.

ARD 2014 gathered 400 experts from the academe and research institutions, government executives and policymakers, farmer-leaders and practicing farmers, private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders. (PSciJourn MegaManila)