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6 Ways to Improve the Lives of Filipino Farmers

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The role of the farming sector is of utmost importance to an agricultural country like the Philippines. Businesses involved in the agri-food value chain are responsible for up to 35% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP). Millions of Filipinos are employed as farmers who tend to key Philippine crops like rice, coconut, corn, cassava, and sugarcane. But it’s no secret that life is often difficult for a Filipino farmer because the work is hard, the pay is insufficient, and the support infrastructure for Philippine agriculture is oftentimes lacking. 

It’s high time that Filipinos from the public and private spheres do their part to contribute to the empowerment of the nation’s farmers. Here are six starting points from which policymakers and ordinary individuals can proceed. 

Find Ways to Supplement Farmers’ Working Capital

By its very nature, agriculture is a capital-intensive profession. Farmers need consistent access to a large amount of working capital to keep their farming operations viable and to settle payments for their various needs. These include seeds and seedlings, abonong organiko or organic fertilizer, machinery for planting, irrigation equipment, postharvest tools, pesticides, and more. 

The best solution to this persistent challenge of farming inputs being difficult to access involves allowing farmers to tap into the financial resources they need, exactly when they need them. Some examples of effective interventions are agricultural credit and loan programs, which increase the amount of cash that farmers have on hand. Farmer beneficiaries of these interventions typically have an easier time juggling their expenses and allocating their financial resources toward larger, more bountiful crop harvests. 

Share the Latest Agricultural Research and Technologies with Partner Farmers

The agri-food system is in urgent need of a large-scale modernization. New agricultural technologies and research can strengthen the food value chain, from the seed stage all the way to the selling stage. Unfortunately, Filipino farmers often have limited access to these; gains in the study of agriculture and agribusiness tend to remain either within the academe or within the business sector. 

It would be a victory on the part of Filipino farmers if they are able to supplement their traditional farming practices, which have weathered the test of time, with a greater variety of modern farming tools and techniques. There must also be a wider effort to bridge the gaps that currently exist among farmers, scientists, entrepreneurs, the government sector, and the financial sector. For the Philippine agriculture industry to transition successfully into the 21st century, everyone should collaborate—with farmers taking the lead and benefiting the most. 

Help Farmers Develop Disaster-Resilient and Climate-Resilient Farming Practices

Farmers are among the first to suffer from the effects of the climate crisis and from seasonal disasters like droughts and typhoons. Support from the government and from civil society can help them recover from disaster-induced losses and continue to make a living off their land.

The support can come in the form of financial aid and training in disaster-resilient, climate-adaptive farming practices. Both may prove effective in quelling the helplessness that farmers often feel during natural disasters and increasing their agency in unpredictable circumstances.  

Broker Business Partnerships That Help Farmers Earn More Revenue from Their Crops

For all the labor that Filipino farmers put into their crops, many earn too little from each harvest. It is also increasingly difficult for their agricultural products to compete with imported products that are sold at lower prices. 

The private sector can boost farmers’ earnings by opening up new revenue opportunities that sufficiently compensate the latter for their tireless work. Entrepreneurs can explore business partnerships that allow Filipino farmers to shine as suppliers, for example in the production of farm-to-table foods or export products. 

Strengthen Farmers’ Cooperatives, Fair Trade Initiatives, and Other Support Infrastructure for Farmers

Filipino farmers will also benefit from support infrastructure that allows them to organize and uplift each other’s efforts. Citizens from other sectors can consider throwing their support behind agricultural cooperatives, which help farmers trade market opportunities, exchange distribution channels, and collectively negotiate deals with buyers.

Another fruitful initiative is public support for fair trade organizations. Fair trade organizations are excellent avenues for promoting pride and trust in Philippine-grown agricultural products, even if cheaper products are available from other countries. Fair trade agreements will also ensure that farmers are compensated properly for following high standards in their production. 

Empower the Women, the Youth, and Other Sectors to Seek a Rewarding Livelihood in Farming 

According to research from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), one of the country’s premier tertiary institutions for agricultural research and education, the average age of a farmer in the Philippines is 53 years old. Historically, most farmers are also men; the latest available data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that women comprise only about 25% of the sector. 

Before today’s generation of farmers retires, the sector must welcome new blood. More women and more youth should be encouraged to take up farming as a profession as an alternative to working in the city. Of course, for them to choose farming among other jobs, the agricultural sector should improve as a whole and make it easier for farmers to sustain themselves and their families. 

Let Farmers Take the Lead in Bolstering Filipino Agriculture

Given the Philippines’ status as an agriculture-driven economy, the contributions of Filipino farmers cannot be overstated. Let’s celebrate what they continue to do for our agricultural sector and uplift them in their pursuit of a dignified, sustainable livelihood.

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