AGRICULTURE as an ECONOMIC BASE for RURAL LANDS: Means for Poverty Alleviation

I fondly recall, how my father, during the early 60’s, would take me to his Farm in Calamba, Laguna. At that time, there was no Super HiWay, no urbanization, and Calamba was then a quiet, historical, yet, very Rural in nature. There were large rice fields, piggeries and poultry farms, and a strong economic base of Livelihood ” Home” products. In the city, we have the Home of our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Calamba, was progressive, a strong middle class, with stable income home based business, livelihood projects, farm owners, entrepreneurs and managers.

Our trip to Calamba was always fun. We would stop at Biñan for their delicious “Puto sa Bilao” served warm and fresh. Further on, there was Espasol, Panutsa, Suman, Coconuts, Keso Puti Yammy Buko Pies, Juicy Mangoes, and all kinds of Tropical Fruits, Vegetables, Sweet Corn, and other delicacies.

Our small “Family Farm” had a poultry, piggery, all sorts of vegetables and looked like a classic “Bahay Kubo” self contained Farm. My father was using then the book of Colin M. Hoskins “The SAMAKA Guide”. This is where he got the idea of a Livelihood project, while waiting for the proper time to redevelop the land into a residential subdivision. He saw how Land use changes in time, and the future of Urbanization was self evident, as there was economic progress with a healthy population growth.

Rural Laguna was not poor at all. One could observe that the people were modest, simple, but cash rich, Educated and participated in Civic, Social and Cultural activities. The Farmers had good quality life, their children were studying at the Universities in Manila, and there was a healthy environment of a Filipino Socio-Cultural lifestyle.

The Farm of my father was relatively small, the Land was from the Dominican Friars, who my father worked for as their real estate consultant. I asked my pappy, “Dad, why are you into Farming?” His reply, which I will never forget, was, “This land will feed the family for the next 20 years”… He was right! He was actually, Land Banking, but putting the Land into its Best Use, with a long term vision.

We see the site today, were LETRAN COLLEGE at Calamba now stands. It is known as “Lakeview Subdivision”-a Project of the Dominicans in Joint Venture with R.F. Cuervo Inc., 50 years ago.  In time, the Farm Rural Lands were transformed into urban use. This is what happens with Progress and Development.

The question is, why is there so much Poverty, even in the Calamba Laguna area, today? Why was it that in the 50’s and 60’s the quality of life was much better? We observed that even if the Farmers were paid for their lands, they became poor in time. The next generation, ended up as factory workers, employees, and doing Jobs for the “New Urban lifestyle”, that led the next generations poor.

Unfortunately, the Change of the Economic Base, from Rural Agricultural to Urban Jobs and services, did not address Sustainability, Poverty Alleviation, and food production.

Last February 9, 2014 I wrote an article titled “Agriculture Education a Means to People Empowerment, Poverty Alleviation and Food Production”.

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Today, I will discuss more about Agriculture using the book of Dr. Jose Rene C. Gayo. He is the Executive Director of the MFI Farm Business Prime Mover for Agri-business education, Co-Founder and Promoter of Family Farm Schools in the Philippines. We will post part of his book: ” 4Es: PATHWAYS OUT OF POVERTY”.

We know the Poverty remains to be the major problem of the country, and if we will focus on agriculture and the rural development, poverty can be alleviated.

Gilda Elepano Pico, Vice-Chairperson, Chief Executive Officer, President, Vice-Chairperson of Agri-Agra Social Concerns Committee, Member of Corporate Governance Committee and Member of Trust Committee, Land Bank of the Philippines

Gilda Elepano Pico,  Chief Executive Officer, President, Vice-Chairperson of Agri-Agra Social Concerns Committee, Member of Corporate Governance Committee and Member of Trust Committee, Land Bank of the Philippines

In the foreword of the book, Ms. Gilda E. Pico, the President and CEO of the Landbank of the Philippines wrote that the book tackles what remains to be the most pressing problem in the country today which is poverty. This book is a call to action for each and every Filipino to take more active roles in helping break this cyclical plight.

The title draws inspiration from President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino’s flagship poverty alleviation program called the Conditional Cash Transfer Program or CCT. While the CCT and other initiatives and programs from both the private and public sectors significantly contribute to poverty reduction, this book recognizes that such programs should be supplemented with 4Es: Education, Entrepreneurship, Environment, and Enablers. The book is thus organized according to these four components that, together, are designed to form an entrepreneurial ecosystem that would support and empower rural folks to break free from the shackles of poverty.

A great majority of the poor are productive individuals who need assistance in terms of education, training in entrepreneurship and livelihood projects. They also need institutional and infrastructure support to help move their products from the hinterlands to the markets. Organizational arrangements like cooperatives, extension services, financing, and post harvest systems play a vital role in these and should be given utmost priority. Finally, there is a great need to nurture an environment conductive to make “family economic enterprises” grow and become sustainable.

This is why LANDBANK embraces its 50th year with greater resolve to support and promote “agripreneurship” as we continue as we continue to do our part of empowering the countryside and nurturing progress countrywide.

We sometimes intend to put the blame or depend solely on the government to take responsibility for addressing the problem of poverty. What this book tries to put across is that we should also find our own voice and take on our respective roles in the grand scheme of things.

This is for every Filipino- the farmer, the entrepreneur, the student, the government official, the youth leader; rich or poor, young or old. I ‘am  hoping that all Filipinos will someday do their share, no matter how little, in helping those who need it most, so that- together- we can all move towards an empowered and progressive Philippines”.

Today, when we talk about the poorest of the poor it always includes the farmers, the fishermen and the ‘kaingineros’ which are involved in Agricultural activities. This is why young people are not interested to have a career related to Agriculture. And because of this, the real food crisis is still to come because Filipino farmers are ageing and there are no generations of young farmers.

According to the book, “The Pinoy Agripreneurship Program” was conceived to train new generation of Filipino framers who are steeped in the in the business of running farm enterprises. Today, the typical Filipino farmer is 57 years old with only five years of education. What these facts tell us is that we have lost more than a generation of farmers and those who have ventured into farming have very limited possibilities for improving their farm systems because of low educational attainment.

The challenge therefore, is how to attract young people to consider farming or better agriculture entrepreneurship as a career option”.

I believe that through this ‘4Es’: Education, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Enablers and the support from our Government, it will cut the chain of poverty among them.

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