By Jullie Yap Daza
As Christmas rapidly approaches and Christmas wishes fill the air, the loudest we don’t hear are those that sound like “I need a job!” “I want a better job!” “Where will I find work?” “The economy grew at 6.9 percent but Vietnam beat us at 7.5. Is my future in Vietnam?”
According to data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority, a “slight increase in unemployment was felt” in the third quarter, that effect being strongest in agriculture. If there’s nothing to arrest the trend, the next generations will be in trouble. Who will plant grain and catch fish to feed them? As worrisome as that might be, we are not alone. Today in China, megaproducer of rice, young people prefer a job in the city, and that’s the boring truth.
A Makati-based group fielded 8,000 volunteers to find out how they could help farmers by offering them loans – only to find out that 1) farmers are intimidated by BPI, the oldest bank, for reasons like, their bankers are always in nice clothes and speak English; 2) farmers rely on loan sharks; 3) which bank has a presence in the area and is willing to lend them money when they are “high risk” borrowers?
We owe our farmers. Ironically, they’re too poor to get help from a bank.
In a switchover from giving scholarships, the financial education unit of BPI Foundation is focused on teaching financial literacy to farmers and OFW’s. Anika Dauden, a granddaughter of the retired dramatic actress Marlene Dauden, recalled how Filipinas working in Singapore said they were put off by the BPI image. It took a while before they could be convinced to enrol in a six-month course, Sundays on their day-off, to learn the basics of money management. In addition, said Anika, the bank is “developing learning resources that help public school teachers integrate financial education into the K-12 curriculum.” Let’s hope the kids who belong to farmer families will be part of the technology transfer and become agents of change. It’s taken our educators more than half a century to realize that saving, spending, and using money should’ve been integrated long ago into the 4 R’s: ‘rithmetic, reading, writing, religion.
Thanks to the eye-opening survey, the bank has created an agribusiness unit. Will farmers join? They have nothing to lose but their shyness. First, what’s an agribusiness supposed to do? Meanwhile, Land Bank enjoys the monopoly of serving farmers.