Agriculture: its role in the economic growth of WV

I WOULD LIKE to congratulate the West Visayas State University – College of  Agriculture and Forestry (WVSU-CAF) as the country’s third largest producer (No. 1 in Region VI) of Agriculturist in the last June 2018 Licensure Examination for Agriculturist given by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) Board of Agriculture.

The University, a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Center of Development (COD) in Agriculture Education and at the same time CHED-COD in Forestry Education, is headed by Dr. Luis M. Sorolla Jr. (SUC President IV) and Dr. Peter Ernie D. Paris as Campus Administrator.

The WVSU-CAF, during its Thanksgiving and Testimonial Program on July 23, 2018, honored the 65 new Agriculturists headed by two topnotchers – Mr. Niko L. Mambusada (Top 4) and Mr. Rolly S. Amion (Top 5).

Many of these new Agriculturists are recipients of the Expanded Student Grant Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA). The ESGP-PA is a Php2.5-billion program started more than four (4) years ago to educate the poor but deserving college students belonging to indigent households.

The beneficiaries are under the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction as identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The grantees of the scholarship were enrolled in state colleges and universities (SUCs) with accredited courses aligned with the priorities of the government. The ESGP-PA aimed to address poverty alleviation by increasing the number of graduates in higher education among poor households and let these graduates employed in high-value-added occupations in order to lift their families out of poverty at the same time contribute to national development. The program is implemented by the CHED in coordination with the DBM, PASUC, DSWD, and DOLE.

The latest survey on courses popular to students and in schools in Western Visayas showed that Agriculture and Fisheries remained in the bottom rank of all disciplines in higher education. There are only 3 private and 27 public colleges and universities in the Region offering Agriculture programs.

Few students took Agriculture due to our bias highly colonial perception that agriculture is less prestigious and profitable profession. This attitude is more prevalent in the rural areas where farming has the mainstay of the population and where much of the population still lives in poverty.

However, if we broaden our mind, our world population is on track to increase (by approximately 1/3) to 9 billion people. Feeding this large number of people will require doubling of our agricultural productivity and this will only be feasible with significant improvements in agricultural knowledge and technology. Agriculture education assumes an important role in the improvement of food production in the country and will be the key component of our overall national and global economy for as long as our people need to eat.

In the latest 2017-2022 Western Visayas Development Plan Roadshow held in Iloilo City, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) identified Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (AFF) sector’s crucial role in the economic growth of Western Visayas region. About 40% of the region’s labor force is engaged in agriculture and fisheries. Expanding employment in this sector will help reduce poverty in the rural areas.

Factors that prevented farmers from optimum production performance are the lingering effects of typhoons, the dry spell or late onset of rain, the decline in area harvested due to intense heat, and the El Niño phenomenon experiences. Other factors are low farm mechanization and inadequate postharvest facilities, inadequate irrigation, insufficient support for research and development, weak extension service, and aging farmers and fisherfolks.

Hence, in these national challenges, we have no option but to move forward to maximize the competitive advantage of our local agricultural and related programs through Agriculture Education. This is by producing more Professional Agriculturists.

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