Jennifer A. Ng
January 16, 2011
REMOVING the power of local governments to implement their own agricultural extension programs is not the panacea to improving the capability of farmers and increasing farm productivity, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said the capability of local governments to provide it should instead be strengthened.
“I am more partial to the idea of just letting the [Department of Agriculture] set the policy direction and then let the local governments implement [that policy],” Pangilinan told reporters in a briefing late Friday.
What local government units (LGUs) need, he said, is capacity-building to ensure their ability to provide agricultural extension service to their constituents. The provision of extension service has been decentralized and the responsibility was transferred to LGUs.
Currently, Pangilinan said the Senate is conducting hearings on Senate Bill 1337 or “Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Act of 2010.”
The bill, introduced by Sen. Loren Legarda, calls for the creation of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Agency (Pafea).
“It shall serve as the national apex organization for a unified and efficient agriculture and fisheries extension system of the country. It shall ensure that public extension services meet the national standards of performance and effectively contribute toward the achievement of the national goals of agriculture and fisheries modernization and sustainable development,” the bill read.
Economists and experts point to weak extension services as one of the reasons behind the low productivity of the local farm sector.
Farmers had also complained of the failure of some LGUs to provide farm extension service.
This has prompted some sectors including former Agriculture Secretary Salvador Escudero to nationalize agricultural extension service.
Meanwhile, Pangilinan has expressed alarm over the apparent disinterest of young Filipinos to go into farming.
“Do you know that the average age of Filipino farmers is 57 years old? We need a new generation of farmers,” he said.
Pangilinan said that one of the reasons behind this is the perception that farming is no longer a viable source of livelihood.
The chief of the Senate Committee on Agriculture said he is looking at implementing a farming program involving local governments. The thrust, he said, is to entice communities to go into farming activities.
“The program will have a holistic approach. From the technical aspect down to marketing, we will provide the assistance,” said Pangilinan.
One of the objectives of the farming program, he said, is to show the young that farming can be a profitable venture.
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