IN JANUARY THIS YEAR, the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched the “One DA Approach,” which aims to outline four key strategies to transform the country’s agri-fishery sector.And while it is called One DA Approach, the strategies also involve the private sector and stakeholders in the agriculture sector, including small farmers and fishers.
Furthermore, the final result is a modernized and industrialized agriculture sector that can contribute more to gross domestic product (GDP) growth, and with farmers and fisherfolk who have achieved optimum production levels and are earning enough income. So what are the four key strategies? They are: Consolidation; Modernization; Industrialization; and Professionalization.
Let me elaborate or explain that one by one.
I have discussed a lot about the strategy of consolidation, starting off with the need to consolidate fragmented, small landholdings into viable production blocs to achieve economiesof scale.
Consolidation of small landholdings into viable production blocs will also make it easier for research and development institutes, including state colleges and universities, to transfer to agricultural stakeholders matured technologies to improve their productivity. Consolidation also makes it easier to organize farmers into cooperatives, enabling them to pool their marketing efforts. Banks also prefer to lend to cooperatives rather than individual farmers. I have already heard of a good number of cooperatives in the Philippines that have asset bases amounting to millions and even billions of pesos, which proves that point.
Now, under the One DA Approach, the DA will also be pushing for the establishment of Bayanihan Agri Clusters (BACs) and Provincial Agricultural and Fisheries Extension Systems (PAFES); collective action; mobilization and empowerment of partners; credit support; and diversification.
The BACs aim to streamline support services from the national and local government units (LGUs) for costefficient production and better resource management.
The PAFES will also be institutionalized to initiate concerted efforts among DA, LGUs, academes, and the private sector. PAFES will serve as an extension hub to bring services closer to stakeholders. The first PAFES was launched in mid-February in Sarangani province, and will cover Region 12 (Soccsksargen). Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon and I forged a partnership in mid-February for piloting Sarangani for the PAFES, with funding support of P226 million. The BACs and PAFES will also result in collective action – mobilization and empowerment of partners, credit support and diversification. When it comes to diversification, it is time more farmers plant and cultivate high-value crops with export potential in both raw and processed form. Among these are coffee, cacao and cassava.
Under the modernization component, the DA will be pushing for technology and innovation, including digital agriculture; infrastructure investments; climate change adaptation and mitigation measures; and food safety regulations. Digital agriculture is very promising and many of today’s younger farmers from the ranks of millennials and Generation Z have embraced that, increasing both their production and incomes.
Support to infrastructure development will also be emphasized with prioritization for farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, postharvest facilities, and storage and processing facilities, among others. From food safety protocols and regulations, the DA will push for strengthened control measures, particularly for animal and plant diseases, that will follow agricultural products standards. Laboratory and research facilities for building traceability will also be prioritized. Industrialization Modernization and industrialization go hand-inhand, but both must be emphasized separately while modernization should lead to industrialization, the latter is also about increasing the country’s export of farm- and fishery-based products, both in raw and processed form.
To help achieve that, the DA will push for the establishment of more Agri-Industrial Business Corridors (ABCs) that will host postharvest, processing, logistics, and marketing support infrastructure and systems.
In July 2020, the DA and Bases Conversion Development Authority forged an agreement for the establishment of the country’s very first ABC in New Clark City, Pampanga. Industrialization also includes intensified marketing support through the strengthening and expansion of the implementation of the DA’s Kadiwa and e-Kadiwa programs. And as stated earlier, the strengthening of the position of Philippine agriculture in global trade will also be given priority by boosting top export crops such as coconut and banana, and cacao and coffee, all of which have vast export potential.
A modernized and industrialized agriculture sector will definitely need a professionalized cadre both from the government and private sector, which can be achieved through the Agriculture Career System, Education and Training for Agribusiness Management, and Ease of Doing Business and Transport Procurement.
State colleges and universities can perform a major role in the professionalization of the country’s cadre of agri-fishery managers, experts, workers and advocates.
The DA will also provide and spearhead a crosscutting Strategic Communication Support to clearly communicate the “One DA Holistic Approach” and use traditional and social media to publicize the success stories of farmers, fishers, agribusiness enterprises and agripreneurs.
Last year, the “perfect storm” caused by the Taal Volcano eruption, the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and the powerful typhoons in the latter part of 2020 truly challenged the agriculture sector. But ultimately, such challenges proved its resiliency. This is proven by the agriculture and fishery sector contracting by only 1.2 percent in 2020 compared to the 9.5-percent decrease of the country’s GDP last year.
Also, the crops sub-sector posted a positive 1.5-percent growth, despite a string of strong typhoons that ravaged Luzon and parts of Visayas.
This year, there is still much optimism for a rebound in the country’s GDP, and the four key strategies under the One DA Approach will help contribute to that and usher in prosperity in the countryside.
There is no option for us but to move forward!
Source: Greenfield Magazine Issue 289