MORE THAN two-thirds of rice farmers want their children to take non-agricultural jobs, a finding which highlights the urgency of social measures to help preserve the farming sector, above and beyond the typical government programs focused on technological interventions, researchers said.

The Department of Science and Technology (DoST)-Science and Technology Information Institute said on Thursday in a statement that based on research done by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), “Around 65% of the farmers wanted their children to stay away from rice farming, while only more than a third of them (35%) wanted their children to be rice farmers too.”

The study “Aging Filipino Rice Farmers and Their Aspirations for Their Children,” written by UPLB Faculty Member Florencia G. Palis, was conducted on 923 farmers chosen at random from Isabela, Iloilo and Agusan Del Norte provinces. A farmer household survey, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were used to gather the data.

The study, published in the Philippine Journal of Science on June 2, revealed the rice farmers were concerned about the impact on their children of “physical, psychological and financial difficulties” which they experienced. The aging farmers instead aspired for their children to take non-agricultural jobs in the city or overseas, for income stability.

Ms. Palis said in the DoST statement: “The risk associated with rice farming as a means of livelihood further discourages parent farmers to aspire for their children to be like them. The uncertainty in yield and income is real to them and they attribute it to unpredictable weather, unstable output prices and input costs, and natural disasters like heavy rains, floods, drought, and pests and disease.”

The study recommended that the government and agricultural stakeholders come up with strategies to motivate rice farmers and their children about the importance of their work while inviting others to farm, including college scholarships in agricultural studies for farmers’ children; teaching agricultural courses in basic education; and encouraging farmers to become certified seed growers.

Access to capital, farming know-how and markets should also be a priority.

“Agricultural extension should not only focus on the development and dissemination of technological innovations but also on social innovations to achieve positive impacts on improving the lives of Filipino rice farming households and communities. In this manner, rice farmers and their children may aspire to rice farming occupations or businesses if they provide better payoff,” Ms. Palis said in the study. — Gillian M. Cortez