agriculture photo

Photo by StateofIsrael

The Philippines is urged to adopt an International Labor Organization’s (ILO) model for skills competency standard in agriculture so as to raise the dwindling number of farmers– threatening food security as average Filipino farmers age is at 57 years old.

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has proposed for Philippines’s and ASEAN’s local use of the Regional Model for Competency Standards in Agriculture and Aquaculture (RMCS).

As policymakers have been condemning the fact that the average age of farm workers in the Philippines is at 57 years, way too old to form a vibrant sector, SEARCA said countries in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) should adopt the ILO model.

“Agriculture remains the backbone of most Southeast Asian economies, with about 450 million people depending on it for livelihood, food, and trade,” according to SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr.

“This brings into sharp focus the need to develop competencies of agricultural workers in light of their important role in raising farm productivity and contribution to food and nutrition security as well as poverty alleviation in the region,” said Saguiguit.

The RMCS of ILO is concerned that there is often a mismatch between skills offered by employers and the needs of workers.

“This means that some people are learning skills that are not needed in domestic industries, and training organizations are wasting their limited resources by providing training that is not used. This is a serious problem for any country as it holds back development and growth in productivity and employment,” according to ILO.

The presence of such skills in agriculture will become even more important in light of ASEAN integration, Saguiguit said, where labor force migration will become more prevalent.

 “Labor migration is projected particularly for workers in the agriculture sector. Increased labor mobility will require quality assurance for sending countries and skills recognition for receiving ones. It will give agricultural workers equitable access to high quality training and fair opportunities,” he said.

National system of TVET

An earlier report of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) indicated that the country needs to improve TVET (Technical Vocational Education & Training) systems and trainings to “prepare for an increasingly fast changing and unpredictable world.”

The standardization and classification of specific skills will be a key to identifying exact skills needed by industries.  Thus consultation with the private sector (or the civil society in agriculture), the ultimate users of skills, on their need for certain skills is important.

The goal for “inclusive” development in helping the poor and vulnerable will also be addressed by an effective National System of TVET (NSTVET), a program overseen by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

“TVET should be accessible to three types of clients—the unemployed, the currently employed who wants to increase his income, and the employed who want to retool.  Access involves availability of financing for those who want to be trained,” according to PIDS.

The poor may be given grant-in-aid and the non-poor loans in order to access TVET training.

“A good NSTVET should be designed to support increases in productivity on the shop floor (private sector). But a common concern is that SMEs (small & medium enterprises) may not have the financial capacities nor the training resources to conduct or finance training that will increase their productivity to make them competitive and grow,” PIDS said.

TVET agriculture training

As of 2015, the agriculture and fishery sector had 299 institutions providing TVET training nationwide.  However, eight other sectors surpassed agriculture in the number of TVET providers, according to this TESDA report.

The sectors with the most TVET programs are tourism, 5,841; ICT (Information, Communication Technology), 4085; construction,1466; automotive, 1,155; metals and engineering,1,126; language, 942; and electronics 813.

Unfortunately, very few enterprises offered agriculture TVET training.  Health and social sector had 31.9% of total TVET trainings, tourism, 26.9%, and construction, 9.4%. However, for agriculture,  enterprises with TVET training only comprised a minuscule 0.1% of total population.

The absence of a standardized competency system for TVET explains the sad state of lack of information on skills availability in the agriculture sector and other sectors in the Philippines, in general.

“Unfortunately there seems to be no commonly accepted estimate of the demand for TVET services.” Said PIDS.

SEARCA proposal

Saguiguit presented SEARCA’s proposal on agriculture TVET enhancement at a high-level meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last May 23-25

It was convened by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) and the SEAMEO Regional Center for Vocational and Technical Education (VOCTECH).

The RMCS divided agriculture and aquaculture skills into eight function areas.  The areas include 1. land maintenance and preparation (soil testing, managing pests); 2. planting and harvesting (managing crop growth, saving of seeds) 3. installing irrigation and drainage; 4. operating gravity-fed or pressurized irrigation; 5. fruit and vegetable production; and  6. rice growing and processing (maintaining rice paddy).

For poultry and aquaculture, the RMCS raises enhancing skills standards on 7. artificial insemination in poultry, incubating eggs, maintaining free-range poultry; and 8. maintaining aquaculture tanks, collecting broodstock, and controlling aquaculture pests and diseases.

The RMCS delves on testing and standardizing specific skills in agriculture and aquaculture.

For aquaculture manpower competency is tested for specific skills including preparation of natural, formulated, or life feed. For instance, a worker must be able to do the following:

1.       Feed stock by hand or using mechanical devices;

2.      Interpret and follow feeding schedule;

3.      Make and record observations about stock behaviour during feeding.

4.      Maintain an repair basic feeding equipment

5.      Store feed to maintain quality and minimize pest infestationincluding rotation of feed bags, climate control, and pest proofing.

   SEARCA has planned a workshop that will determine status and implementation of competency standards of workers.  End (Growth Publishing for SEARCA).