Farmers believed their children will not have a future if they become rice farmers. Most Qfarmers want their children to obtain college education so they can work on non-farming jobs in urban areas or abroad.
Around 65% of the farmers wanted their children to stay away from rice farming, while only more than a third of them (35%) wanted their children to be rice farmers too. These are based on a study on Aging Filipino Rice Farmers and Their Aspirations for Their Children, done by Florencia G. Palis of the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
A farmer household survey was conducted among 923 farmers who were randomly selected from the three provinces representing each of the three big islands: Isabela for Luzon, Iloilo for the Visayas, and Agusan del Norte for Mindanao. The survey was complemented by in-depth interviews and focus group discussions to further understand the lives and situations of Filipino farmers.
The overall average age of farmers was 53 years old, ranging from 50-59 years at the average age level in the three covered provinces, and 16 to 89 years at the individual age level. Majority of them had elementary education, and on average they spent only eight years in school, or an equivalent level of 2nd year high school before quitting. The number of years that the farmers are engaged in farming ranges between 22 to 30 years. There were more men farmers (70%) than women farmers (30%), and mostly are married (85%). The average household size was five and the average number of children was four.
The risk associated with rice farming as a means of livelihood further discourages parent farmers to aspire for their children to be like them. The uncertainty in yield and income is real to them and they attribute it to unpredictable weather situations, unstable output price and input costs, and natural disasters like heavy rains, floods, and drought, including pest and disease infestations, Palis explained.
As one of the study informant, Aling Tasya (not her real name), said, My waist and back are painful, especially during and after transplanting the rice seedlings. I need to bear these pains so that I can provide some food for my family.
Tatay Berto (not his real name), another informant recounted, My grandson, a vocational graduate, worked in the Middle East. He gives monthly support to his parents. He already bought a rice field and his parents are managing it. My daughters family is no longer borrowing money to use as capital in their farm production. They have also improved their house.
Non-farming jobs are seen to be better as these are placed on a higher level than doing farm labor. If there are farmers who want their children to follow in their footsteps, they are more likely the older farmers who wanted that someone in the family manage the farm and continue the rice farming tradition.
The research also finds that Filipino rice farmers are trapped in the cycle of poverty since most of them have insufficient capital to commence rice cultivation. Farmers branded themselves as borrowers or mangungutang. With high input costs, they are forced to borrow money from informal lenders who charge them high-interest rates, or traders who require them to sell their produce immediately after harvest with a low paddy price.
There is a need to pay attention on rural services for agricultural extension including hassle free and practical mechanisms of providing capital to farmers, according to Dr. Palis. Agricultural extension should not only focus on dissemination of technological innovations but social innovations as well to achieve impacts in improving the lives of Filipino farming households and farming communities. In this manner, farmers and their children may aspire for farming occupation or business if it has a better pay-off.
This research appeared in the Philippine Journal of Science (PJS), a publication of Science and Technology Information Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-STII). PJS is also available online. (Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin, S&T Media Service)