YOUNG AGRI-PRENEURS. Zagana chief executive officer Joshua Aragon (right) delivers his message of support for young farmers (left) during the Young Farmers Challenge 2022 awarding ceremony at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management Convention Hall in Quezon City on Wednesday (Aug. 31, 2022). The program aims to encourage and support young agri-preneurs to stay or return to agriculture and to engage them in food production, processing of agricultural products, and other farm-based enterprises. (PNA photo by Ben Briones)

MANILA - Senator Imee Marcos on Thursday said pushing for the enhancement of the Department of Agriculture's (DA) Young Farmers Challenge Program (YFPC) would bring a huge impact on the country.

"It's not true that the youth is no longer interested in agriculture. The youth are primarily interested in earning a living. Kung kikita sila sa pagsasaka, anuman ang hirap at dusa, gagawin nila at babalik sila sa bukid (If they earn in farming, whatever struggle, they will do it and return to the farm). That's my belief," Marcos said during the Senate Committee on Youth organizational meeting.

DA Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista told the committee that they saw how receptive the youth are and that more of them are interested to join the YFPC, which started in 2021.

"Actually, napakarami pa pong gustong sumali sa ating (many are interested to join) Young Farmers Challenge and being young, they are also very resilient. So, yung mga (the) innovations pagdating sa agrikultura, sila po ay (when it comes to agriculture, they are) very receptive," Evangelista said.

Marcos said the YFPC was allocated with PHP100-million budget in 2021 and over 1,800 participants from the provincial, regional, and national levels have participated.

However, she said a bill must be filed to expand and improve the program.

"It would be nice to also access land under the DAR, DENR, and LRA given that so many students don't have land of their own and cannot dictate what will be planted. Dapat din yung DepEd makatok, sa tech-voc sa TESDA (We should also tap the DepEd and TESDA in tech-voc). The processing and manufacturing, yung (the) CHED, DOLE, and DTI para sa (for the) market access," Marcos said.

In her introductory message, Marcos said the number of farmers in the country does not even reach 10 million which has an impact on food productivity.

She also said the average age of a farmer in the Philippines is 57 years old.

"Sinasabi, sa taong 2030, wala nang (It was told that in year 2030, there will be no more) planted, grown, made in the Philippines na pagkain dahil dito. Nakakatakot po itong kalagayan natin (food because of this. We are in an alarming situation), Marcos added.

Marcos, and Senators Jinggoy Estrada, and Loren Legarda recently filed resolutions seeking to establish the Young Farmers and Fisherfolk Challenge Program.

These measures aim to encourage the younger generation to take up farming and fishery as viable career options. (PNA)