FoodFindsAsia | How Mechanization Can Help Filipino Farmers | Farm mechanization plays an important role in transforming Philippine agriculture, and it continues to be one of the priorities of the national government and the Department of Agriculture (DA). In fact, it is one of the strategies that the DA aims to implement to ensure that the agriculture sector can level up and adequately respond to the changing global environment and economy.
Making farming equipment readily available to farmers is a significant investment, and it requires consolidated effort between government agencies, agricultural workers, and private organizations to turn this goal into a reality. After all, some of the most common rice farming equipment Philippines farmers use are priced between 8,000 to 70,000 pesos, and these costs are often far beyond what many smallholders can afford. Regardless, investing in the mechanization of farms in the Philippines can have long-term impacts that will benefit individual farmers, set a solid foundation for the continuous development of the agricultural sector, and enable more Filipinos to become food secure. Here are some of the effects that farmers will be able to experience if they have ready access to modern farming equipment.
Higher Yield Production
Traditional agriculture relies on human effort and the assistance of draft animals, and many farmers in the Philippines still tend to their lands in this way. Discounting the effects of disasters such as typhoons and droughts, this means that the number of crops that a farmer can sow, tend to, and reap will likely be commensurate to the man-hours dedicated to working on the land in question. This severely limits the amount of money that farmers can yield for their hard work. Take note that the median age for farmers in the Philippines is 57, meaning that many of them are nearing their retirement age and can be experiencing health issues typical of this stage in life. Also, the number of farmers in the country has dropped considerably in the last decade.
Adding machinery to the picture increases the productivity level of a farm. A single piece of farming equipment, after all, is capable of working on wider plots of land at a much faster rate compared to the combined efforts of a human and a draft animal. During the planting and harvesting seasons, the assistance of mechanical tools will enable farmers to work on their lands and crops much faster and in a more consistent manner. These tools can even assist them in quickly harvesting their fields before a typhoon hits or causes flooding. In fact, according to the DA, the proper use of farm machinery can reduce post-harvest losses by 3 to 5%. The use of modern farming tools, then, offers farmers a better chance of sending products in their peak condition to the market and commanding better prices for them.
Better Efficiency at Lower Cost
Farming equipment is not cheap, and many smallholders do not have the capability to immediately purchase such tools for their farms. The good news is that farming collectives and cooperatives can put their resources together and apply for DA programs and loans to make farming machinery more accessible to the agricultural workers in their respective communities.
It often takes an individual farmer a long time to recoup the cost of purchasing modern farming equipment. This, however, is less of an issue among farming collectives that can share a single piece of machinery between their members. With proper scheduling, the farmers who collectively own the equipment can take their turn in using it and see how it can make a positive impact on their work. They no longer have to rely on the assistance of outside workers when they need to speed up the work in their fields. At the same time, the use of machinery can reduce post-harvest losses and provide higher yields. Consequently, the reduction in losses and labor expenses can decrease the production cost of rice by 2 to 3 pesos per kilo.
Setting Up for Growth
Finally, the acquisition of machinery is a solid step in equipping farmers for modern agricultural processes and techniques. While farming will continue to be a demanding job, the availability of farming equipment will help reduce the strain on farmers and enable them to accomplish more with less time, effort, and expenses. Instead of spending most of their working hours tending to their fields, they can divert their efforts to other farming initiatives such as caring for livestock and maintaining fish ponds. These activities give them the option to apply circular model approaches in farming, thereby further lowering the cost of production and environmental impact of their farm, all while diversifying the crops and produce that serve as a basis for their livelihoods.
What Does It Take to Mechanize the Farms in the Philippines?
Equipping farms with modern agricultural equipment and systems, however, is far from an easy task. First, government agencies must coordinate with farming equipment manufacturers and invest in developing agricultural tools and technologies. Second, the DA must formulate plans for distributing machinery, providing farmers with technology education and promotion programs, and training them on equipment operation and management. Last, the department should consider the long-term sustainability of the program and carry out continuous benchmarking, monitoring, and improvement efforts. These activities will ensure that the farm mechanization program will meet its objectives and enable the country to reach a higher level of food security and self-sufficiency.
Photo by Rattasat: https://www.pexels.com/