MANILA, June 22 -- The Philippines is urged to adapt an International Labor Organization (ILO) model for skills competency standard in agriculture to raise dwindling number of farmers - threatening food security as average Filipino farmers' age is 57 years.
Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) proposed Philippine and ASEAN use of the Regional Model for Competency Standards in Agriculture and Aquaculture (RMCS).
As policymakers have been condemning the fact that average age of farm workers in the Philippines is 57 years, way too old to form a vibrant sector, SEARCA said ASEAN countries should adapt 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 - this brings into sharp focus 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 SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr.
The RMCS of ILO is concerned there is often a mismatch between skills offered by employers and needs of workers.
"This means 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," ILO noted.
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.
An earlier report of 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."
Standardization and classification of specific skills will be a key to identifying exact skills needed by industries so consultation with the private sector (or 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," said PIDS.
The poor may be given grant-in-aid and 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 small and medium enterprises may neither have the financial capacities nor training resources to conduct or finance training that will increase their productivity to make them competitive and grow," PIDS said.
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, noted TESDA.
Sectors with the most TVET programs are tourism (5,841), information, communication technology (4,085). construction (1,466), automotive (1,155), metals and engineering (1,126), language (942) and electronics (813).
Very few enterprises offered agriculture TVET training, however.
Health and social sector had 31.9 percent of total TVET trainings, tourism had 26.9 percent and construction had 9.4 percent.
For agriculture, enterprises with TVET training only comprised 0.1 percent of total population.
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 demand for TVET services." said PIDS.
Saguiguit presented SEARCA's proposal on agriculture TVET enhancement at a high-level meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month.
RMCS divided agriculture and aquaculture skills into eight function areas.
The areas include land maintenance and preparation (soil testing, managing pests); planting and harvesting (managing crop growth, saving of seeds); installing irrigation and drainage; operating gravity-fed or pressurized irrigation; fruit and vegetable production as well as rice-growing and processing (maintaining rice paddy).
For poultry and aquaculture, the RMCS raises enhancing skills standards on artificial insemination in poultry, incubating eggs and maintaining free-range poultry and maintaining aquaculture tanks, collecting broodstock and controlling aquaculture pests and diseases.
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.
SEARCA planned a workshop that will determine status and implementation of workers' competency standards. (PR-PNA)