Harvesting the business opportunities of tomorrow

There’s a common joke in our local farming community that goes “farmers know just two English words: ‘short’ and ‘failure’.” These words refer to their harvest. They’ve grown so accustomed to poor harvests that it’s turned into a running joke. Yet for a young agvocate like me, this isn’t a laughing matter but a challenge – and better yet, an opportunity.

I’m Christine Jodloman, and this November I’ll be headed to Brazil as the Filipina representative at the 2019 Youth Ag Summit. I’m from a rural community in North Cotabato. When I was young, summer meant helping my mother to re-harvest threshed palay (unmilled rice) on our farm, or chop and dry copra (coconut meat). We would plant vegetables in our backyard, and I was always excited to harvest and cook them – I felt so connected to the land, eating in true ‘farm to fork’ style.

While I started my studies in communications, over time this passion for agriculture pulled me back to my roots. My thesis focused on communicating climate-smart rice varieties to local farmers. My research showed that most of my region’s farmers are ageing, and have little idea of what climate change has in store. These are national issues across the Philippines: farmers have an average age of 57, agriculture is not profitable, and as a result, youth has little interest in it. When I asked their take on the ageing crisis, the overwhelming response was that they were the ones encouraging their own children to look elsewhere – because in their eyes, there’s no future or money in agriculture.

These experiences led me to establish PALAY Initiative and Food SECURE Philippines in 2016, with support from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and Cherrie Atilano of AGREA as a mentor. Our mission is to empower rural farming communities to be food-secure, healthy, and – most importantly – business-minded.

We want a future where a short and failed harvest is not a joke but a lesson learned

We believe in a vibrant and enabled new generation of young farmers: ones who believe a short or failed harvest is not a joke but a lesson learned. We want young farmers to be adept in sustainable agriculture, climate-resilient farming and agripreneurship, and feel part of a movement to communicate agriculture in a positive light.

Our main program is the annual Agripreneurship Learning Camp, where we help rural youth to build capacity in older farmers. Agripreneurship diversifies the economic base, and has huge potential to bring decent work to rural areas. At Food SECURE Philippines, most of us have participated in national and international capacity-building programs that have shaped the movement into what it is today. To date, we have facilitated agripreneurship training for 300 rural farmers. Food SECURE Philippines was also the first Filipino think tank selected to be part of the Global Solutions Summit - Young Global Changers in Berlin, Germany.

Rural youth are full of potential when it comes to working towards Zero Hunger. We grew up in the countryside ourselves, and have a real investment in our community’s future. Most of us have experienced the wonder and excitement of getting our hands dirty, and growing our own food from scratch. That’s why I’m thrilled to be part of the 2019 Youth Ag Summit, where young people can bring their own solutions to feed a hungry planet to the table.

If young people could take away one thing from reading this, it’s this: agriculture is not just about growing food. Agriculture means growing the future. We need a future with a thriving agricultural sector, where people and planet are prioritized. I believe youth are willing to be more involved in agriculture when it’s communicated in a positive way. Why always look at agriculture as a poor sector, when we can look at it through the lens of agripreneurship - full of opportunities? Agriculture has always been a gamechanger: in the next five years, I’m making it my personal mission to create more narratives highlighting this reality.


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