It seems that all around the world, the problem is how to lure the young to get into agriculture as a profitable honest-to-goodness source of livelihood. It is a problem in the Philippines. In Taiwan, as elsewhere, it is the same. Many parents don’t want their children to become farmers. They send them to college so they will become white collar employees. Not many of the young are interested to go into farming either.
In Taichung, a county in the middle Taiwan where fruits, vegetables and other crops are produced commercially, the local government has an ongoing program where they give total support to young people, male and female, who are serious in going into modern, profitable farming.
Toto Barcelona talking before attendees of Agribiz Kapihan
The program sounds incredible but it is true, swears Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona who just returned from Taiwan. He discussed the scheme last July 28 at the Agribiz Kapihan at the Rizal Techno Park in Taytay, Rizal. The Taichung program started about five years ago with 10 agri scholars. Now, Barcelona said, there must be about a hundred participating in the program.
How does the program work? The scholars who are 20 to 35 years old are not the ordinary students who spend their time in classrooms. These scholars are rigidly selected. They and their parents are interviewed in the process of selection to make sure they are really serious in becoming farmers. For one year, the candidate is mentored by a successful agribusiness owner in the same field selected by the student. For instance, if the student wants to go into grapes production, the mentor is one who has his own grape farm. For one year, the candidate is coached on the basics of production as well as the strategies in making the project profitable.
The scholar is given a monthly stipend of NT$35,000 which is about P60,000 in Philippine money. In the meantime, while undergoing training, he would be starting to develop his own project. At the end of the year-long training under the coach, he is given a grant of NT$800,000 as seed capital which is about P1.36 million. At the same time, he is provided with NT$5,000,000 credit line. If the student would like to buy machinery to mechanize his operations, the local government will shoulder 30 percent of the cost. Wow! Who would not want to participate in that kind of program to lure the youths into agriculture?
The mentor is also financially well-supported by the local government. He usually mentors three or four students at a time. For his services, he is given a monthly stipend of NT$5,000 per student and a credit line of NT$8,000,000 with no interest.