Stewards of the environment
(Last of two parts)
At this point, I would now move on to the third part.
I will share with you what some private groups and government agencies are doing to solve problems I mentioned earlier.
In November 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 (BSEM) major in Farm Business and the Diploma in Entrepreneurship.
The project was conceived given the realization that there is a dire need to address the poverty problem prevailing 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 has been said to improve the lot of farmers has been lip service.
College-level agriculture programs have been around in the country since 1909 (105 years to be exact) 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 shall 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 University of Rizal System, it offered a ladderized BSEM major in Farm Business.
The first two years of the program was handled by the MFI FBS and 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 Rep. 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 MAP.
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.
Last year, the ATI-FPD scholarship program expanded its coverage nationwide. Today, 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 the 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.
My fourth point is a call to action.
For my final point, I would like to discuss with you something that you can take back home. Something that is doable as a project at the town or barangay level.
The solution toward responsible behavior as stewards of the environment and the poverty problem lies in educating our young people.
We are all aware of the poor quality of education in our public schools, especially those in the rural areas where the great majority of the poor are living.
They are the ones in most need of better education and, along with it, empowerment to tackle environmental problems in their areas.
We cannot leave this to government alone or to some NGOs. Every Filipino citizen can do something no matter how small and when put together these can amount to so much.
I wanted to share with you a very inspiring project that is done by a public elementary school in a rural area.
It all started in 2003 when Emma Caballero was appointed head teacher of Tagbac Elementary School, in Barangay Tagbac, Oton, Iloilo. The item was just for a head teacher since the school is small to have its own principal. The buildings and classrooms were in disrepair. Soon she found out that about half of the pupils from Grades 1 to 6 were either slow readers or non-readers. What hit her is when she realized that many of the pupils come to school without breakfast. She resolved to do something about it.
She organized some parents to help in establishing a school garden so that vegetables can be grown and used for preparing a healthy snack cooked like porridge and served during the morning recess. Later on, she learned about organic vegetables production and that this would be healthier for the pupils. Today, the school has become a “Lakbay Aral” destination and has been designated by the ATI as an Organic Agriculture Learning Center. The school is now with its full complement of teachers, buildings and facilities. Thanks to the income earned from visitors and sales of vegetables and seedlings.
With continuing support from ATI and business organizations, the school has now been made an “Herbal Tourism Site” because of its extensive collection of culinary and medicinal herbs. But there is more to these accomplishments.
When she came in 2003, the pupils’ National Achievement Test score was only 45 percent. Last year, it was 71 percent.
Pupils are also taught how to cook vegetables, prepare salads, and make salad dressings with all the ingredients coming from their school garden. Today, Principal Emma is beaming with pride when visitors come not just to see what they are doing but also to attend seminars where the lecturers are the pupils themselves.
If this can be done by a public elementary school in a rural area, why can’t this be done in all our schools? When this happens Philippine educational system will never be the same. Together with the Family Farm Schools and Farm Business Schools, it shall make our rural areas truly places for good, healthy living and progressive communities.
(The author is a member of the MAP Agribusiness and Countryside Development Committee, the Program Manager for MAP’s Farm Business Schools Programs and the President of the Foundations for People Development. Feedback at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous articles, please visit www.map.org.ph.)
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