Why is agriculture a promising
career for young people?
Early exposure to agriculture will help more young people become acquainted with opportunities to earn from agriculture.
This was the gist of retired UPLB professor Dr. Chito Protacio’s position when he was asked about his opinion on how to deal with the declining number of youths who are interested in the industry.
According to Dr. Protacio, a US-trained horticulturist, in terms of making education available to Filipino students, the government made a good decision to implement free tuition to make this course available to more students.
He said that most agriculture courses are offered by state universities and colleges, making this option available – and is a good step – for students who want agriculture as a career.
Protacio, who once also headed the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice), said there should be “influencers” who could show students that agriculture is not just about rice and crop production because there are other opportunities with other products as well.
“Talagang perennial problem na talagang mababa kasi ang tingin ng mga society sa (agriculture) course,” he said.
“But then kailangan makita ng mga students or would-be college students na magandang career ang agriculture. There should be influencers. Kailangan merong magsabi sa kanila o makita nila,” he said, citing an instance wherein a young student was surprised that one agriculturist who was involved in the seed industry was able to buy his own car.
Protacio said that when the student realizes that agriculture could become a lucrative profession, he can be inspired to pursue a career in agriculture.
He added that the government has several programs to expose high school students to potential professions in the agriculture sector.
“Well, there are some experiences. There are some like PhilRice, which have a program of gives early experience in agriculture to a lot of high school students. So with these exposures, they know what’s out there. That’s the most important thing,” he noted.
“They should know what is there, and frequently they don’t know kaya there should be an exposure program probably even some kind of internships at the high school level,” he explained. “It’s very important because, when you’re in high school – especially if you’re in the urban areas, you don’t really know what’s going on in the countryside.”
As he put it, “A lot of this is in the countryside but now, with the pandemic, there’s more of these factories for crops. So, these are the hydroponic farms, and these are now in the urban areas because of the experience of the pandemic that they could not transport. In a way, right now there are these hydroponic farms in the urban areas, that can give some exposure for our high school students.
Meanwhile, Protacio said that local farming – and not just importation – is essential in every government’s quest for food security, and modernization in the agriculture sector could be a huge come-on for young students who want to pursue a career in farming.
“Well, hindi maaaring hindi tayo kakain di ba. We need shelter, we need clothing, we need food and medicine. So yan ay nakukuha natin sa agriculture eh so hindi maaaring hindi tayo kakain. We eat three times a day,” explained Protacio, who has recently retired after 42 years as an educator.
He said there are plenty of opportunities to earn from agriculture because many aspects of the food industry involve agriculture experts.
“Lahat ng mga crops and meat, lahat yan ay sakop ng agriculture kaya’t kung saan man parte ng agriculture, yan ay value chain kung kayo ay nasa production. Meron kayong puwedeng puntahan doon sa crop protection or animal health protection tapos yung post-harvest, marketing and even yung mga financing. Lahat yan ay nangangailangan ng agriculture graduates,” he said.
He added that the modernization of the industry, especially with the advent of "smart agriculture," is a perfect opportunity for young people who want to challenge themselves with an interesting and fruitful career. He said that agriculture is not an isolated career and even those from other fields can collaborate with farmers in modernizing agriculture in the country.
"We just had a project on smart agriculture. Invoked din dito yung other disciplines. For example, yung irrigation. Merong ginawang wais na program or app with sensors para magsabi kung kailan dapat mag-irrigate,” he said.