Where do Filipino Farmers want their children to go?

“Without farmers, we could not support our people. From the basic need of rice, fruits, and vegetables, to the ingredients used in our desired foods. Imagine if scarcity happened to all these crops and our own country.”

“I want to be rich so I can feed my family and give them the life they deserve.” — This is a common dream of a Filipino kid born in a low to middle-class family.

In a study conducted by Florencia G. Palis of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, “Aging Filipino Rice Farmers and Their Aspirations for Their Children”, 65 percent of farmers believe that their children have no future if they pursue farming too.

The same study also showed that farmers think it is better off to send their children to college education and eventually work on non-farming jobs. Why do they think that way? According to the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES), the Labor Force Survey (LFS) conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), says that agriculture has the lowest average daily basic wage compared to non-agriculture sectors. Farmers are one of the least paid workers in the Philippines.

In Dr. Palis’ study, it mentioned that they do not want their children to become farmers because farming is physically tiring and not financially rewarding. Sending their children to a college education and having a stable job is their goal despite being farming is their life. In our famous folk song, “Magtanim ay ‘di biro”, the lyrics clearly state the hardships in farming. A farmer needs to bend the whole day, not able to rest by sitting or standing. One of the informants on Dr. Palis’ study experienced waist and back pains similar to the song lyrics.

Most Filipino rice farmers are trapped in poverty as most of them do not have the capital to start their crops cultivation. Most of them call themselves “mangungutang” or borrowers. Oftentimes, they borrow money from illegal lenders with interest rates resulting in returning their produce immediately to them and no crops left for them to sell.

Hence, the aspirations of farmers for their children to do farm jobs is at 35% percent, this is the number we hold for the future of farming.

Farming has been one of the oldest occupations in the country. Our ancestors worked on their land to have something on their dinner tables. Also, this is to ensure food and the source of the family’s income. The pandemic has shown us that all businesses can go down at any point in time but never the food business, such as agriculture.

Without farmers, we could not support our people. From the basic need of rice, fruits, and vegetables, to the ingredients used in our desired foods. Imagine if scarcity happened to all these crops and our own country. Do we dare to buy it from exports rather than spend less supporting our own? Think about it.

Farmers knew their importance and what they do. But what is in the eyes of the non-farmers? It should be simple as the food came from farming. The young generation should learn that food is a result of work done. Food came from one’s hard work and that it didn’t come instantly as food. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that physiological needs – food, water, etc., are the biggest part of an individual’s satisfaction.

Kids in their prime years of studying were taught how to plant. Planting together with their friends at school would make them realize it is a fun job and not just a physically tiring job. Planting the seedlings, watering their plants, and harvesting their crops all together is a fun way to understand the essence of farming.

Kids have the notion that when they grow up, they want to be rich. And for them to be successful, they either become a doctor or do other white-collar jobs. Schools are slowly giving importance to farming and agriculture. Universities such as the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Benguet State University, Central Philippines University, and Xavier University are only a few schools that learn better technologies and study the science of farming. 

Going back to the Filipino folk song, “Magtanim ay ‘di biro”, despite having waist and back pains, the lyrics say: Kung saan may patanim, may masarap na pagkain. If you plant, then you will have pleasant food to eat. Everyone would surely agree to the folk song’s title however the song ended on a good line that planting is for tomorrow, for the future. 

As farmers brand themselves as ‘mangungutang’, we can ease this notion by helping our Filipino farmers one box at a time.

Kimberly Joy Urgelles
Kimberly Joy Urgelles

Kim is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Communication at Polytechnic University of the Philippines. She is currently a Product & Marketing Intern at Farm Box and also a full-time Tax Analyst in a top auditing firm.

Farm Box is a social enterprise that provides support and assistance to the local farmers based in the Philippines.


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