By Julio P. Yap Jr.

The Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) recently conducted the 7th Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and Family Summit at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

According to Senator Cynthia A. Villar, the summit focuses on the well-being and success of OFWs, particularly those who will venture in the field of agriculture because the Philippines is an agricultural country. The senator believes that enticing more Filipinos, especially OFWs, to venture into agriculture will help the country attain its objective of food security and food safety in the Philippines.

Besides helping rescue distressed OFWs, Sen. Villar says that they also want to help ensure that OFWs, especially the returnees and their families, will have a secure future here in our homecountry. “At the end of it all, it is true that there is really no place like home. So, we have to focus on the kind of future that (they) will have here in the Philippines (for when they) are not OFWs anymore—that is the long-term goal.”

At the summit, resource speakers discussed and emphasized the importance of venturing in the agriculture sector. One, Ramon D. Uy Sr. of R.U. Foundry and Machine Shop Corporation (RUFMSC), says that tapping and training OFWs to farm or be involved in agri ventures is successfully preparing them for another long-term career. “A person who wakes up early in the morning and works all day deserves to be rich. But how come our farmers are still poor today?” he asked.

Ramon D. Uy Sr. while explaining the principles behind successful farming. Uy shared the predicaments being encountered by many farmers in the country; he also cited the importance of farm schools in relation to the farming industry in the country.

He equated this with the heroism of the OFWs who are now working abroad, saying that a majority of them must still struggle when they return to our country. But with proper training and exposure, Uy believes the farmers and OFWs could become successful in the field. He then urged OFWs and their families to learn about or be exposed to the challenges of farming in the country.

Uy explained that a majority of the Filipino farmers remain poor because of their wrong practices, procedures, and technologies. Improving the practices and procedures of farmers, plus exposing them to better available technologies will definitely improve their capacities to be successful in farming, he says.

A better alternative: “As we all probably know, (a) majority of… OFWs are former farmers, or came from farmer-families. And probably, most of them abandoned their former livelihoods in the hope of improving their status in life—that’s why they decided to work abroad,” Uy says.

He cited the objective of holding summits like the Overseas Filipino Workers and Family Summit, where bright opportunities in farming could be shared with OFWs looking to invest their hard-earned resources in farming in the country, as a better alternative to other ventures. “There is an opportunity for farmers and (those who are just beginning to farm) in the country through proper training and sound guidance.”

Value-adding could boost the productivity of the farmers, Uy explained.

Among the opportunities that Uy introduced to OFWs were new technologies in farming, value adding, and maintenance of farm machinery in the countryside. “Many…OFWs are probably exposed to (machinery), and this is where they could share or apply their expertise in the countryside,” he added.

Challenges: Another resource speaker, Dr. Aladino Moraca, a professor at the Central Philippines State University in Kabankalan City, also shared the available opportunities that OFWs and their families could tap to improve their lives.

He explained to summit participants the challenges that affect farming in the country, like the effects of climate change, market demands, and simple but life-changing technologies that can propel the farming industry in the country. Dr. Moraca also sees opportunities in incorporating more principles of adult education, like engaging the participants in hands-on design and evaluation of the training modules, which were found to be highly effective in exposing the farmers to modern technologies.

Dr. Moraca says that together with other non-profit organizations and active partners like Villar SIPAG and RUFMSC, they were able to train farmers to help improve their production, and the viability and ecological sustainability of their agricultural operations.

Together with the Ecological and Agricultural Development Foundation, Inc. (Eco-Agri, a vital arm of RUFMSC) and other non-government institutions, they were able to offer in-depth, culturally and regionally appropriate workshops and technical assistance to help farmers. He says that they also developed materials on farm business planning and marketing, hosted farm tours for participants to observe organic and sustainable farming practices, and provided opportunities for the farmers to network with other farmers.

Uy emphasized that OFWs and their families could be exposed to the farming opportunities in the country through hands-on training and coaching on appropriate and best farming practices, entrepreneurship development, research extension, and actual production. “Training the OFWs and their families to farm is like successfully preparing them for another career.”

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2018 issue.