Ensuring the Future of Agriculture: The MFI-FBI Farm Business School
Nestled among lush ricefields and the bamboo forest hills in Jala-Jala, Rizal, a 60-hectare farmland of the FMJ Foundation sits before the shimmering expanse of the Laguna Lake.
Come June this year, some 40 Filipino youth will call this farm both “school” and “home” as they study to become agri-entrepreneurs through the MFI Farm Business Institute’s Farm Business School.
The Farm Business School has been a long-standing dream for Jose Rene C. Gayo, group head and trustee-in-charge of MFI-FBI.
“I have always believed that a program that prepares students for agri-entrepreneurship is very much needed in the country. It is an unfortunate fact that majority of agriculture graduates – including those from the agribusiness program – do not end up in agribusiness. On the other hand, there is also a dire need for well-trained manpower for agribusiness management,” Gayo explains.
The modernization of the country’s agriculture sector depends much on the quantity and quality of manpower, fueling the elements of its development. Cooperatives, land reform, research program, agribusiness enterprises, and credit and marketing agencies are built by individuals who are knowledgeable in both the science and business management of agriculture.
“There is a need for a new breed of manpower for the agriculture sector: agriculture entrepreneurs. These are the people who will run and manage their own agriculture enterprises or people who will be hired as professional farm managers of small- and medium-scale agriculture enterprises,” adds Gayo who is a former dean of the school of management in the University of Asia and the Pacific.
To that end, MFI has teamed up with the University of Rizal System (URS) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) in order to offer a Diploma in Entrepreneurial Management and Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Management (BSEM) major in Farm Business. The unique partnership of the two institutions resulted in a unique ladderized program under the Dual Training System.
The program primarily targets rural youth whose families are farmers or landowners and who show a natural inclination towards agriculture and entrepreneurship. MFI-FBI is eyeing municipal governments, agri-based private companies, nonprofit groups, and individuals as potential sources of funds for the students.
Unlike other business and agriculture related programs, this program boasts of 70 percent farm practicum and 30 percent academics. Students will stay in the farm’s dormitories and will be fully immersed in the day-to-day operations of farm projects.
“They will learn the ropes by personally overseeing operations from start to finish,” said Maret Legiralde, head of Research and Development and the Agro-Aquatic Development Center of MFI-FBI. “If students are sent home after their classes, what will happen if one of their sows gives birth in the middle of the night? They will miss that experience. Staying onsite will help students monitor and maintain their projects, and teach them that agri-entrepreneurship is personal management.”
Students will earn TESDA-accredited certification on crop production upon completion of their first year, certification on animal science on the second year, and a certificate on either aqua culture or agro-forestry on their third year. Graduates of MFI-FBI can then finish their degree through an additional one year of study at URS.
“The Farm Business School is part of our two-pronged approach towards farmers’ training,” describes Legiralde. “Here, we are targeting to train the youth, the children of today’s farmers, in both agriculture and management concepts and practices. This ensures the supply of skilled manpower for the future of our agriculture sector.”
Yet these students, especially the underprivileged, usually lack the land resource to pursue their agribusiness projects. The ones who do own the land are their parents.
“Majority of those existing farmers are those who have inherited land from their ancestors or who have benefited from the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Program (CARP),” said Legiralde.
“The common mindset of our farmers towards their agriculture activities is normally, “we are just farmers,” such that their farm practices are often tradition bound rather than based on formal education. We would like to see our farmers find dignity and pride in what they do by enhancing their skills, and showing and teaching them that agriculture is business. We serve this group through MFIFBI’s Farmers Training Center.”
When the parents and their children are equipped and trained, a family farm enterprise is sure to be conceived. A farm enterprise’s success could draw more people from the community to employ the same productive farm practices, thus spurring the birth of rural enterprise.
“Hand-in-hand, the Farm Business School and the Farmers Training Center can make a lasting impact on agriculture,” said Legiralde. “But the success of these programs is dependent upon the support and close partnerships that MFI must form with the academe, various local government units, nonprofit organizations, and other individual who share in the dream of a modernized, thriving agriculture industry in our country.”