The agriculture industry covers an extensive scope that transcends food as it is also involved in other sectors, including textiles, medicine, and liquor. Without the development and contribution of agriculture, civilization won’t be as advanced and comfortable as it is today.
As an agricultural country, the Philippines possesses the resources to provide for the public. Despite challenges in the previous years, such as African Swine Fever (ASF), the COVID-19 pandemic, and food shortages, it always finds a way to bounce back.
Some part of the success and continuous progress of Philippine agriculture comes from the initiatives of the Department of Agriculture. Since 2019, DA Secretary William Dar has spearheaded several programs and called upon the public to support their efforts for better results.
One ideal example of how the DA fostered the importance of farming, while involving the community is through the urban gardening program, “Plant, Plant, Plant.” Until today, the DA continues to encourage Filipinos to grow their food because it’s practical, productive and prevents food shortages in the city. They’ve started various programs on social media and in local communities to inspire people about the benefits of farming.
This year, the DA launched the second part of the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program to combat the global food crisis due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preserving the agriculture sector requires more than the government’s intervention. Dar always encourages Filipinos to buy local and support farmers. One example is the Kadiwa Ni Ani At Kita outlets that bring farmers’ produce to consumers in the metro. The DA also emphasizes the various local produce consumers can purchase throughout the country.
When addressing pressing issues like ASF, Dar doesn’t hesitate to partner with local government units and private sectors to find solutions, while resolving active cases. The DA also inspires farmers to report cases of ASF to their local DA. The Bantay ASF Sa Barangay (BABay ASF), along with hog repopulation schemes by the DA, revitalized the hog industry significantly.
“The incidence of ASF is waning, as blood samples of suspected hogs that tested positive are down to 147, as of August 2021,” said Dar, adding that “ASF incidence is down to only 24 barangays, in 16 cities and municipalities.”
Aside from the hog industry, Dar also focused on improving the fisheries and aquaculture industries. In the previous year, and sometime before that, the DA allocated funds and donated pieces of equipment to help fisherfolk increase their production. The DA also constantly researches new approaches to increase supply and improve quality.
Even though many people worry that farming doesn’t appeal to the younger generations and could risk the future of food production in the country, the DA spearheaded several programs that train the youth about the basics of agriculture so they can serve the public in the future.
DA’s MAYA (Mentoring and Attracting Youth in Agribusiness) program saw 808 young applicants qualify as interns for a six-month internship program that aims to transform them into “agripreneurs” or technocrats.
“When I came in as the servant-leader at DA in August 2019, I have given special attention to entice the younger generation to engage in agriculture through agribusiness — as it is the way forward to unlock the potential of Philippine agriculture,” Secretary Dar said.
Since Dar has a background in agricultural research and is deeply interested in using various technology to further the agriculture industry, he applies these advancements to numerous sectors in agriculture whenever given a chance.
Farmers, livestock raisers, and fisher-farmers frequently receive new equipment and infrastructures to bolster their production. The DA also provides numerous seminars on basic and advanced topics related to agriculture to help stakeholders expand their knowledge about the industry.
Another focus of the DA is disaster resiliency. Since an average of 20 typhoons visit the Philippines each year, the agriculture industry has to develop numerous approaches and technology to mitigate the impact of extreme weather. Without climate-smart agri-technology, the country will experience a significant amount of losses in agriculture every time a calamity hits.
Earning a well-deserved recognition
Because of his dedication to preserving and developing Philippine agriculture, Dar received several awards throughout his term as Agriculture Secretary. One of them he received from Benguet State University (BSU) the previous year.
He was the first recipient of the “Kalsa Centennial Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award” from the BSU during its alumni centennial celebration. It comes from the Ibaloi word for “gong.” It is a symbol of unity and diversity given to those who continuously honor the university through their exceptional achievements in their respective fields of expertise.
“As a servant-leader, whose humble beginning was notably influenced by this learning institution, I always strive hard in everything that I do, carrying the values of excellence, leadership, and service wherever life leads me,” Dar said during the awarding ceremony.
In 2020, Dar was also chosen as a Lifetime Contributor Awardee by the Board of Judges of Asia CEO. Asia CEO Awards is the largest business awards event in the Philippines. Its purpose is to promote the Philippines as the premier business destination for the world.
Dar proves that his background as a son of farmer-parents and educational prowess in the field of agriculture is what helps him steer the DA towards meeting its goals of transforming Philippine agriculture into a high-functioning and sustainable industry.
Last November 2021, under Dar’s leadership, the DA was recognized as one of the Top Requested and Performing Agencies by the Freedom of Information—Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) of the Presidential Communications Operation Office (PCOO).
The DA was among the agencies, which successfully processed and responded to 250 to 499 requests and with at least 90 percent closed transactions in the eFOI portal.
Agriculture continues to be a core sector in the Philippines. With the DA at the helm, along with significant partnerships throughout its years of service, the government agency promises to uphold its standards of Philippine agriculture with various programs and implementations to help it adapt as the world continues to progress in the modern age.