Ten years of the Farm Business Schools Project
In Nov. 2004, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) established the Farm Business Schools project. The Farm Business School (FBS) is a specialized business school that offers programs to train people as supervisors, managers or entrepreneurs in agribusiness enterprises. Its flagship programs are the ladderized Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Management major in Farm Business, and the Diploma in Entrepreneurship.
The project was conceived given the realization that there was a dire need to address the poverty problem in the country. One solution that MAP saw was to improve productivity of farmers who constitute the great majority of the poor. For decades, government administrations have always cited agriculture as an important sector of the economy. Unfortunately, much of what had been said to improve the lot of farmers was lip service.
College-level agriculture programs have been around in the country since 1909, yet there is very little success if we take the situation of our farmers as a measure. As a result, young people are shying away from farming and from agriculture courses.
If this trend continues, what about our food security and the need to develop the rural areas if there is no generation of young farmers? Thus, the Farm Business School project was born.
The Farm Business Schools as envisioned will offer business and entrepreneurship programs to fill the need for farm supervisors, farm managers, and agripreneurs. It makes use of the dual training system by putting premium in actual hands-on experience rather than just sitting in the classroom. In contrast, agricultural schools offer science-related courses and thus are too theoretical.
When the Farm Business Schools project was launched, there were early takers but none of those Farm Business Schools materialized. It was the MFI Foundation, Inc. that finally managed to establish one.
The MFI Farm Business School opened its doors in June 2009 with only 14 students. Run in partnership with the Rizal University System, it offered a ladderized Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Management (BSEM) major in Farm Business. The first two years of the program were handled by the MFI FBS and it awarded a Diploma in Farm Business Management.
The following year, it offered its second program leading to a Diploma in Entrepreneurship with specialization in Agricultural Business. This program was crafted given the specifications of the Foundations for People Development (FPD), the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Philex Mining Corp. that supported the first batch of scholars.
In 2011, the W.B. Dawson Farm Business School opened in Puerto Princesa City with scholars from Palawan supported by ATI, FPD and Cong. Dennis Socrates. The Diploma in Eco Farm Tourism Entrepreneurship was offered to complement the eco-tourism industry in the province.
In 2012, two other entities adopted the Farm Business School in their localities. In Murcia, Negros Occidental, the Catholic Ming Yuan College TECH sponsored the Farm Business School in the area. The other was established in Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur and is known as the Saniel Integrated Farm Technology and Business School.
There are other parties that have applied for a “franchise” from MAP and they are still waiting for approval by the Board of Governors.
The Farm Business School brand of education and teaching methodology has been noticed by the ATI. As of last year, ATI has supported close to 270 scholars in these Farm Business Schools just cited with counterpart funding from the FPD and its partners. This year, the ATI-FPD scholarship program expanded its coverage nationwide. Last July and August, 280 scholars in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindano are enrolled in the program with the Farm Business School partners.
The interest shown by these young people enrolled in these Farm Business Schools disproves the common notion that they are not interested in farming. In the orientations given to these students, it was emphasized that—given proper training, exposure to farm enterprises, and mentoring by successful agripreneurs—they can be millionaire agripreneurs.
When the FBS project was presented to MAP Board of Governors, it was mentioned that “MAP at this stage of its history as a professional association of management and business practitioners needs a project that promises to have a significant contribution to our country’s economic development. The crises that we are in now need some solutions that will address the great need to put food on the table of so many Filipino homes and create thousands and even of millions of employment opportunities in the rural area. The Farm Business Schools hope to produce a corps of farm entrepreneurs and farm managers who will make Philippine agricultural enterprises truly competitive business enterprises.”
That was 10 years ago. And with some Farm Business Schools in place, we are slowly realizing that dream.
Now, as we face a new challenge with the looming Asean economic integration, these words find more resonance for taking agricultural and rural development more seriously. For these to happen much is needed in terms of farm equipment, machinery, irrigation systems, farm to market roads. But more important than these are the needed human capital to make these work. After all, the most compelling factor for competitiveness and innovation is people. This is where the Farm Business Schools are called to achieve such results.
(The author is the project manager for MAP’s Farm Business Schools project, a member of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the dean of the MFI Farm Business School. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. For previous articles, please visit www.map.org.ph)
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