Agri Cool

The agricultural community’s ability to lobby for measures in favor of this sector is now at one of its highest level ensuring the field’s continued development.

At a university dedicated to sciences and agriculture in Taiwan there is a signboard in Mandarin which when roughly translated means “ Agriculture is cool”.  That sign clearly reflects  a decades long campaign by the Taiwanese government and educational institutions to make agriculture related careers as a desirable career path for its younger generation. In Taiwan you will see modern farms with hi tech green houses, buildings with artificial lights bathing hi value crops indoors 24/7, large indoor fish farms with air pumps run by solar power, hi capacity farm machines one third the size of machines we see in our country, and dedicated and highly educated farmers armed with the latest knowledge in agri tech.

Even with a small area for arable land and a small base population, Taiwan was able to fully utilize its agricultural production potential not only to make it a food self sufficient country but also a strong agricultural exporter. Taiwan’s farmers have become one of the more affluent sectors of its society. Many started  out with small farms or small fish ponds and have expanded into large agriculture or aquaculture based companies.  Their farmer cooperatives have also been fully supported and developed and are a now the poster boys for cooperatives and some are even richer than corporations. As a political force the farmer cooperatives and farmer associations in general are a potent political force which was shown in the recent victory of the present ruling party in Taiwan which was supported by many farmers and fisher folks. The agricultural community’s ability to lobby for measures in favor of this sector is now at one of its highest level ensuring the field’s continued development.

On the other hand despite our country’s larger arable land and potential we have never developed our full potential in the field of agriculture. Our farmers are some of the poorest people in our society and very few of our younger generation even consider agriculture as a career thinking it is not “cool” to be a farmer. Politically there is no genuine farmer vote in our country as compared to the urban poor voting blocs which has shown its strength in several elections putting many party list congressmen in power with its strength.

The Philippine dream of self sufficiency in food has still been unreachable.  At present we still import a large chunk of our food requirements.  With food requirements growing exponentially due to unchecked population growth, it is imperative that the Philippines address this issue immediately.

For the next few months Taiwanese agriculture and aquaculture experts will be going to our country to see how they can introduce some of their innovations to our farmers and local governments in the hopes of helping us develop this sector. They are also planning to set up demonstration farms to showcase these innovations. Realistically their country needs us to expand their food production base but we too can greatly benefit from their renewed interest in our country by taking advantage of their efforts and learning from them.

Just Saying!

About the Author
Gilbert Lauengco is a lawyer and current Chief FInance Officer and Member of the Board of Director of Manila Economic and Cultural Office (the Philippine representative office in Taiwan) . He is also a lecturer at the Ateneo School of Management and a political and local government consultant of several local and national government entities. He was a former City Administrator and has held several positions in government. He has been part of and headed political campaigns in both the national and local level. A self-proclaimed geek, travel nut and social media addict, he has several other blogs on several other topics.
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