Agri Enablers: Empowering Farmers

On May 31, 2017, Go Negosyo sa Radyo (GNSR) hosts Sen. Bam Aquino & DJ Cheska San Diego-Bobadilla were joined by two agri enablers namely, MFI Farm Polytechnic Institute Campus Manager Rita Macabuhay and SL Agritech President Henry Lim Bon Liong. For this episode, the four gave a glimpse into the current state of Philippine agricultural development through the lens of education and innovation.

To kick off, Sen. Bam and DJ Cheska discussed the growing need for our agricultural industry to advance. Sen. Bam shared that in other countries, farmers are rich and not struggling like the ones in our country. This is sad mainly because agriculture is the backbone of the economy. Without farmers, how will people eat?

Rita Macabuhay of MFI Farm Polytechnic Institute believes that education and involvement of the youth is imperative to improving the agri industry. In MFI Farm Polytechnic Institute, they have students who have travelled across Negros to take up their courses in agriculture. The Farm Business Institute teaches these students to be full-fledged farmers and capable entrepreneurs. This, Rita shares, is because the youth today are more interested in agribusiness, seeing that profit is an essential part in sustaining any agricultural endeavor.

DJ Cheska asked Rita whether a lot of the youth are turned off by agriculture because of the poor plight of today’s farmers. Rita says that in their program, they hope to combat this stigma by showing the students big and small successful farms. In fact, the school’s approach to teaching agriculture is a combination of mindset and values formation for an agripreneur and the technical skills training for farmers. The school believes that attitude is just as important as the technical information. Senator Bam agreed and said “kahit anong skill ay maaring matutunan with the right attitude.”

While Rita and the Farm Business Institute is focused on education and engaging the youth, SL Agritech President’s advocacy is on research, development, and innovation to further growth in the agri sector. Henry Lim Bon Liong is credited for his research into hybrid rice, which could revolutionize the rice industry in the country. From his own painstaking work from years of research and development, Henry has tested about 75 varieties before landing on SL-8H—a hybrid variety that is high-yielding and sustainable. Aside from producing SL-8H to compete with regular rice, Henry was also able to produce premium rice varieties. Today, these premium rice are sold in supermarkets locally and internationally under the brand Doña Maria (Henry’s mother’s name).

Henry believes that if rice farmers will begin to adapt hybrid rice and are taught how to maximize their crops, both farmers and society will benefit. For farmers, they will be able to harvest more rice for much less and thus, earning more. For society, it can decrease our dependency on importation of rice and possibly make us self-sufficient in the future.

Go Negosyo sa Radyo hosts Sen. Bam Aquino & DJ Cheska San Diego-Bobadilla were joined by two agri enablers namely, MFI Farm Polytechnic Institute Campus Manager Rita Macabuhay and SL Agritech President Henry Lim Bon Liong.

Go Negosyo sa Radyo hosts Sen. Bam Aquino & DJ Cheska San Diego-Bobadilla were joined by two agri enablers namely, MFI Farm Polytechnic Institute Campus Manager Rita Macabuhay and SL Agritech President Henry Lim Bon Liong.

Challenges

Rita and Henry share that there are still mounting challenges when it comes to empowering the agricultural sector. Henry shares that a lot of farmers are still scared or are misinformed. Because of this, they are hesitant to try new technologies such as hybrid rice. However, Henry says that when they are shown the real benefits of adopting new practices/technologies, it becomes very easy to coach and train farmers. Henry is also positive about the future of agri. He shares that this administration has been very aggressive in promoting and empowering farmers through trainings, knowledge sharing, and many other programs.

Rita is also positive that more of the youth will become interested in agriculture with the diversity of programs and applications of the subject. Many of the school’s graduates immediately get absorbed into businesses they interned for. However, she shared that there are also examples of students who delved into entrepreneurship. An example is a recent graduate of theirs who has set up an urban farm in Metro Manila. His business involves setting up other urban farms in the metro and he has been able to grow 30 strawberries in 1 sqm plot of land, in any weather.

Truly, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in Philippine agriculture development—it is a great thing that we have enablers like SL Agritech’s Henry Lim Bon Liong and the Rita Macabuhay from Farm Business Institute leading the way.


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