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Agri-sector eyes ‘Balik Probinsya’ initiative benefits

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As the country prepares for the “new normal” following the easing of community quarantines in some areas in the country, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Thursday stressed that the proposed “Balik Probinsya” program may further revitalize the country’s agricultural sector.

In a statement, the senator said that many city dwellers are reintegrated in the countryside where idle, fertile lands can be developed, noting that if the national government can come up with other complementary programs promoting agriculture then benefits can follow.

“There is a decreasing number of farmers and fishers in the country because many of them are too old to work in the fields and in the seas and also due to the migration of workers from the countryside to urban centers,” said Go.

He added that although a lot of the children of these aging farmers and fishers prefer to work in the cities, they usually end up as factory workers, laborers, household help, sales girls — most of them earning below the minimum wage rates.

Go said that the depleting number may be augmented through the implementation of a “Balik Probinsya” program, coupled with supporting agricultural programs.

“We must entice a new generation of farmers to go back to our agricultural roots,” said Go. “We have to make agriculture and aquaculture more promising again to attract young farmers and fishers to these industries.”

President Rodrigo Duterte’s former top aide has been pushing for a much needed boost to agriculture in the country and among his proposals include the continued provision of more inputs for farmers, such as seeds, fertilizers, machineries, and trainings on scientific and climate resilient farming methods to increase agricultural productivity in the country.

He noted that concerned government agencies may explore the idea of providing more scholarships and even trainings abroad for Filipino farmers so they can learn the best practices on farming, such as the kibbutz system in Israel.

Barangay Agriculture may also be incorporated in the basic education curriculum to inculcate love of farming among Filipino students at a young age.

“If government can conduct and offer more free skills trainings, livelihood seminars to convert the non-working wives and other members of the families of our farmers and fishers, perhaps we can also make them become ‘agripreneurs’. This could be part of government’s more aggressive support for MSME development, this time focusing on the agriculture sector,” Go said.

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