By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Turkey, a rich Muslim nation ranked seventh among the top agricultural producers in the world, has accepted a proposal by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for a joint exchange program (JEP) to train and expose leaders and farmers from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to modern agriculture in that country.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said Turkish Ambassador to the Philippines Artemiz Sumer accepted the proposal when she visited DA Central Office in Quezon City last Wednesday, and discussed mutual concerns.
The envoy “was happy with the proposal and agreed to start the Exchange Program by September this year,” Piñol said.
Under the JEP initiated by Piñol, local executives from BARMM including agriculturists and farmer leaders will undergo a short course of about seven days in Turkey that would include exposure to the modern agricultural areas of the Muslim country.
“The best way to influence the mindset of our leaders and farmers on agriculture is to expose them to good examples and benefits of modern farming technology and the best way to do this is to show them how a Muslim country has become the 7th largest agricultural producer in the world,” the Agriculture Secretary told the Turkey Ambassador.
He stressed that governors and mayors in BARMM “must be involved in the exchange program because they could serve as the catalyst of agricultural modernization in their areas when properly oriented on the benefits of modern farming technology.”
Piñol said he has informed BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” about the program through Finance Minister Eduard Guerra.
The JEP prescribes the selection of scholar-trainees in five groups representing the five BARMM provinces for travel to exposure by batches starting this coming September.
When each batch of scholars shall have returned to their respective provinces, the Turkey government through the Turkey International Cooperation Agency (TICA) will conduct follow through programs to ensure that the knowledge they ;earned on Turkish agriculture would be applied in their farms, Piñol added.
He said JEP trainings focus on grains production, dairy farming, cattle and goat raising aimed at enabling BARMM to penetrate the huge trillion-dollar halal market across the globe.
The DA secretary and Sumer agreed to prepare the final draft of the JEP’s implementing guidelines for their signature by next month.
Upon his designation by President Duterte as his “point man” in the Bangsamoro region last July 10, Pinol sponsored a two-day gathering in Davao City where BARMM’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) officials and clients started grafting a regional agriculture road map with the guidance of DA national and regional experts.