THE Department of Agriculture (DA) urged this year’s high school graduates to enroll in farming and fisheries-related courses.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said recent figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the average age of farmers and fishermen is 43.

“That means a lot of young people are now getting involved in agriculture, and I hope more and more of them will be involved,” Alcala said.

In the baseline survey conducted by the DA’s Philippine Rural Development Plan, he said the average age of Filipino farmers and fishermen plunged from 57 to 47.

He also noted that in Southern Luzon State University, there is a 280-percent increase in enrollment in agriculture related courses.

Alcala said he is hopeful that the young farmers will embrace today’s technological innovations and mechanization.

“Times have changed. With modern technologies and the farm mechanization that we have been championing since 2010, these new farmers will have quite an easier time in the fields, unlike our forefathers who really had to eat by the sweat of their brows,” Alcala said.

But in order to encourage more young people to go into farming, the government, with the help of the private sector, must help make farming profitable.

Government must liberally provide credit, new technology and farming methods, farm implement subsidies and spend for irrigation.

Arable lands must be preserved and even expanded.

We must help farmers increase their productivity and earn decent profits from their labor, so they would continue their agricultural projects.

Farming can be productive and profitable. There are many examples published in this paper. One was Rosalie Ellasus, a college degree holder who held a corporate job then worked abroad then came back here to try rice farming in Pangasinan. She earns almost half a million from her five-hectare riceland per cropping season.

With the government’s all-out support, there could be many more like her—farmer-entrepreneurs who will help the country achieve food security.

Former Senator Francis Pangilinan said young Filipinos no longer find farming attractive because farmers earned an average of P17,000 in 2009.

Pangilinan, who is now Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, had warned that the country’s food security would be threatened if farmers continue to get a lower income.

Farmworkers got an average daily wage of P233.05 in 2013, according to the latest report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

In the report, titled “Trends in Agricultural Wage Rates,” the PSA said male farmworkers were paid higher at P236.34 compared to the P226.73 given to female agricultural workers.

“By region, Central Luzon reported the highest daily nominal wage rate at an average rate of P344.50,” the report read.

In Central Luzon, male farmworkers received P347.99 per day, which was P32.86 higher than the wage rate paid to female farm workers at P315.13 per day.

“On the other hand, the lowest average wage rate was registered in Central Visayas at P202.06 per day. This was P203.68 per day for males and P188.87 per day for females,” the report read.

The government must have a program and a set of incentives to get not only more young people, but also businessmen, OFWs, retirees and others involved in farming.

Again, agriculture must be seen as an entrepreneurial venture. We must encourage people to get into it in the same manner we encourage them to put up their own small businesses to make money.

Having a piece of land to work on isn’t enough. There must be an effective program that would give them a start in an agriculture business and help them maintain a sustainable model. The government must help them develop plans, get financing and most importantly, markets for their produce.

The national government should help farmers sell their produce in a set-up where they will earn more instead of the middlemen. The money and time spent by the government on subsidizing farmers should be used instead in helping them market and sell their crops, fruits and vegetables properly.

The farmers can buy their fertilizers and other needs. The real problem is that they don’t get much profit from their products due to unfair marketing practices.

The future of farming is in the hands of well-educated farmers who have a good grasp of agriculture and marketing techniques. They would be vital to ensuring our country’s food security in an era of increasing scarcity.