One of the major thrusts of DA Secretary William Dar’s New Thinking in Agriculture is the innovation and modernization of the sector, which ties in with his advocacy to engage youth in agriculture.
“We need young blood in agriculture. They have the defining attributes when it comes to utilizing modern agriculture. They are well connected through electronic devices that can help modernize farming and fishing activities,” says Secretary Dar, who spearheaded the launching of two main initiatives to involve and empower youth in agriculture. These are: (1) an internship program connecting on-the-job trainees (OJTs) with DA-Agricultural Program Coordinating Offices (APCOs), and (2) an agribusiness loan program dubbed the Kapital Access for Young Agriprenuers (KAYA), which was launched by the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) at the Pampanga State Agricultural University (PSAU) in January 2020.
To understand the importance of these programs, we must look at the young agripreneur and the challenges that they face in pursuing their agribusiness ventures, and the context of their access to financial and capacity building services.
Are young people still interested in agriculture?
Much has been said about the aging population in agriculture, as the average age of farmers in the country has been estimated at around 56 to 60 years old. Thus, there is a need to attract the younger generation into farming to maintain and modernize agriculture (Dar, 2019).
However, while global data suggests that young people’s interest in agriculture is declining, many farmer and fisher families in the Philippines still involve their children in their agri fishery activities. As Manalo (2016) points out in the Philippine Rice Research Institute’s (PhilRice) Infomediary Campaign, “Highlighting the exodus of the youth from agricultural communities by referencing global data masks one important fact—there are young people who have been heavily involved or are still heavily involved in strenuous tasks in the farm.” An earlier study conducted by Manalo (2011), with respondents from the provinces of Albay and Aurora, showed that the young people surveyed were directly involved in the rice farming activities of their families, and that despite devoting significant time to studying, a notable portion of their time was still spent working on the farm.
This means that while there is a common notion of the younger generation being dissuaded in pursuing farming in favor of other career opportunities, there remains a population of youth who are still very involved in their families’ agri-fishery livelihood activities, and this population needs to be empowered in order to sustain their direct involvement in the sector.
As the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR) notes, agriculture is considered “the greatest provider of employment in the developing world” that provides new economic opportunities beyond production alone, including processing, value-adding, and provision of services. Engaging youth in agriculture will not only address unemployment rates, but will also increase food security. However, appropriate support must be given to ensure their success, including increased access to credit, capacity building, markets and other services to grow their agribusiness.
Financial inclusion and the young agripreneur’s access to credit
To entice the youth into entering agriculture for business, their financial literacy and access to financial services must also be improved.
According to the BSP’s 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey, young adults generally have lower rates of adoption of financial products and services, as these rates are “highly tied to employment.”
Only 6.8% of youth aged 15-19 and 29% of those aged 20-29 surveyed had accounts. BSP also reported that e-money was widely used among young adults, and that in rural areas, microfinance NGOs are prevalent (BSP, 2020). This suggests that despite limited access to formal banks, youth in the countryside still have the means to access financial services.
The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report that “few young people in the ASEAN and SAARC region borrow (4 percent) or save (20 percent) for business or farming purposes,” and because of minimum age requirements and their lack of collateral and credit history, young people have difficulty accessing financial services (Jain et. al., 2018).
Even previous ACPC loan programs reported a low proportion of young borrowers. In the ACPC’s results of field evaluation conducted in 2019, only 4.2% of respondents who availed of the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA)–ACPC’s flagship production loan program at the time–were below 30 years old (ACPC, 2020), and as of October 2020, data from the ACPC Management Information Services (MIS) indicated that only 1.8% of the total PLEA borrowers recorded were 30 years of age and below.
While access to sustained and tailor-fit financial services may help provide capital to help young people start their agribusinesses, credit is only one of many support services needed. The World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) notes that a combination of financial and nonfinancial services are needed by youth to build them up as successful entrepreneurs, and this combination can also improve their capacity to repay their loans.
“Financial services alone cannot unlock positive outcomes for youth. A range of complementary non-financial services—including entrepreneurship training, vocational skills, negotiation and communication skills, financial education, and business advisory services—are also critical to successful wage employment and youth entrepreneurship.” (Anderson, et. al., 2019)
Thus, credit must be combined with complementing services to empower the young agripreneur.
Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (KAYA)
The DA-ACPC’s Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (KAYA) is a program which aims to address these unique challenges faced by the youth when pursuing agribusiness.
Under the KAYA, beneficiaries may avail themselves of non-collateralized and zero-interest loans of up to Php500,000 for their agri-fishery startup business, and attend workshops facilitated by the ACPC in partnership with DA and its attached agencies, to not only finance, but also plan, grow and properly manage their business.
The program targets young agripreneurs who are 18-30 years old, and are graduates of either formal or non-formal schooling–including, but not limited to, agriculture and fishery related degrees from higher education institutions, DA and ATI-accredited programs, TESDA programs, farm schools, and secondary schools with agriculture and fishery-related courses.
Since launching the program in January 2020, the ACPC has been managing the KAYA loan program while adapting to the community quarantine protocols in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and utilizing digital platforms to accommodate and endorse potential borrowers, conduct program orientations and workshops, and disseminate information on the program.
Borrowers go through the orientation and business plan workshop process, and once their business plan and other documentary requirements are finalized, the ACPC endorses their application to the partner lending conduit (PLC) in their area. PLCs are the financial institutions (government banks, rural banks, cooperatives, associations, and viable microfinance NGOs) which ACPC taps to implement its credit programs.
The ACPC has also tapped PayMaya Philippines, an e-money and digital payments platform, to digitalize disbursement of its loans, further enabling PLCs to reach their clients seamlessly and strengthen financial inclusion in rural areas.
Featured KAYA Beneficiaries
Jellen Bernardino, mallard duck egg production
Jellen, 24, was able to avail of the KAYA program to launch her mallard duck (itik) egg production business. As the daughter of vegetable farmers, Jellen was already involved with farming, was a member of a farmers’ association, and had attended various technical training and seminars from DA and DAR, and even completed an Entrepreneurship NC II course from a DAR-TESDA program. Aside from her active involvement with technical training, she says the KAYA Business Plan Workshop provided her with additional knowledge on the entrepreneurial side of agriculture.
“Natutunan ko na ang agriculture, hindi lang farming–marami pa palang paraan para kumita nang mas malaki at mag-expand ng negosyo.”
Prior to applying for the KAYA program, Jellen had no experience in borrowing from formal sources of credit. Other than receiving a cash card for her salary when she started working and using money remittance services, she had not yet availed of other financial services.
She explains that if not for her family’s advice for her to pursue her agribusiness and the KAYA program providing her with the needed capital, she would have continued working in retail as a saleslady, but she prefers managing her own business.
“Kapag business owner ka, hawak mo ‘yung oras mo at malaki pa kita mo. Sana malaman ng mga youth katulad ko na mataas ang kikitain nila sa agribusiness, at kaya nilang umangat sa buhay kahit hindi nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral–na kaya din nilang magtayo ng sarili nilang business at maging sarili nilang boss.”
Jaime Belches, hydroponic farming
Jaime, 30, availed of the KAYA program to finance his proposed hydroponics system, which serves as an expansion to his existing vegetable farm. Originally an information technology (IT) graduate and a former DA employee, Jaime started farming in 2018 when he learned of the sudden surge in market price of red chili, as a wave of new restaurants were being established in his area; with an entrepreneurial mindset, he capitalized on this trend by growing red chili peppers on a small plot located within his cousin’s farm, now registered as the NewGen Agri Farm. Despite his peers’ initial attempts to discourage him from pursuing farming, he found that he was able to make a significant profit from his agribusiness.
“Para sa mga kabataang nais magsimula ang karera na mag-venture sa agribusiness, manatiling habulin ang pangarap para sa mas maunlad na sektor ng agrikultura. Ang inyong intensyong magsimula ay unang hakbang sa inyong patutunguhan.”
As he became more interested in farming, he started to utilize platforms such as YouTube, where he would watch webinars and educational videos on agri production, and Facebook, where he joined Facebook Groups and followed Facebook Pages featuring millennial farmers, successful agripreneurs, and information on farming technology.
With the combination of his self-study and the guidance of the ACPC’s Business Planning Workshop and the DA Regional Field Office’s (DA RFO 3) Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD), he was able to craft his business plan for his innovative hydroponics system to expand and improve the production of his agribusiness.
“Hindi ako napapagod na matuto ng mga bagong kaalaman ukol sa agrikultura. Naniniwala ako na may kinabukasan na naghihintay para sa mga kabataang tulad ko na nagsimulang magnegosyo gamit ang teknolohiya ng pagsasaka.”
Rowee Sarmiento, mushroom
Rowee, 27, manages her own fresh oyster mushroom and fruiting bags startup business, a venture which she learned from her father, who maintained his mushroom business for many years while also farming vegetables. Under the KAYA program, Rowee was able to avail of a loan to finance the business she had wanted to pursue ever since she was young.
Rowee also studied agricultural engineering, and later, fisheries, in college. Rowee and her family are active in attending technical training from DA, TESDA, BPI, and other capacity building institutions, to continually improve on their capabilities to manage their mushroom businesses, and are also members of a cooperative.
“Ang farming kasi, akala ng iba na mahirap lang siya at maliit lang kita, kaya wala silang tiyaga pumasok sa agrikultura. Pero malaki talaga ang kikitain mo sa agri na business. Dapat lang may tiyaga ang mga kabataan, kasi ang dami na talaga ng opportunities para sa generation natin. ‘Yung iba, hindi pa nila alam kung ano ang gusto nilang gawin sa buhay nila, pero ako talagang ito na ang gusto ko kahit dati pa.”
Even with her significant experience in the mushroom industry, she says that the workshops under KAYA helped her improve her business plan. She is also the first in her family to avail of a business loan from a formal lending institution, and she says she is thankful for the non-collateralized loan to purchase her capital requirements, as it brings her closer to the vision she has to expand and grow her business.
“Masaya ako sa business ko, ‘tsaka proud pa ako sa lokal na produktong sariling atin.”
To sustain and modernize agriculture amid the sector’s aging population, the younger generation of farmers must be encouraged and empowered to pursue agriculture beyond production, and to revitalize the industry through innovative agribusiness.
The desired outcome for the KAYA program, which is reflected in the application requirements and capacity building component, is to not only finance the startup businesses of young people with a strong agri-fishery background and interest in starting their business, but also to strengthen their foundation through complementary technical training and entrepreneurial workshops.
The three testimonies featured illustrate the mindset of the young agripreneur and how they defy the stereotypes of the poor aging farmer. The new generation of farmers are young, innovative, and driven, and are equipped with access to modern technology and platforms and opportunities that will allow their agri-fishery ventures to flourish, as long as they are provided with the right combination of technical, financial, and entrepreneurial mentorship and support.
Agricultural Credit Policy Council (29 June 2020). 2019 Report on the Results of Field Validation Activities for the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) Program. Pasig City, Philippines.
Anderson, Jamie, Danielle Hopkins, and Myra Valenzuela (June 2019). The Role of Financial Services in Youth Education and Employment. Consultative Group to Assist the Poor/World Bank. Washington, D.C., USA https://www.cgap.org/sites/default/files/publications/2019_06_30_WorkingPaper_Youth_Education_Employment.pdf
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (2020). 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey. Manila, Philippines. http://www.bsp.gov.ph/downloads/Publications/2019/2019FISToplineReport.pdf
Dar, William D., Ph.D. (13 July 2019) “The ‘new thinking’ for agriculture.” The Manila Times. Manila, Philippines. https://www.manilatimes.net/2019/06/13/business/agribusiness/the-new-thinking-for-agriculture/568614/
Jain, Mayank, Dr. Robin Gravesteijn, Zamid Aligishiev and Richard Last (2018). Youth Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion: Outlook for ASEAN and SAARC. United Nations. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/rbap/docs/Research%20&%20Publications/democratic_governance/UNDP-UNCDF-2018-Youth-Entrepreneurship-and-Financial-Inclusion-ASEAN-SAARC.pdf Manalo, Jaime A., Katherine P. Balmeo, Jayson C. Berto, and Fredierick M. Saludez (2018). Youth & Agriculture: The Infomediary Campaign in the Philippines. Philippine Rice Research Institute. Nueva Ecija, Philippines.http://www.pinoyrice.com/wp-content/uploads/youth-and-agriculture.pdf