PHILIPPINES: Salesian agriculture center helps youth gain the classroom and hands-on skills needed for farming
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries launched an Agricultural Technology Center and adjacent Don Bosco Demonstration Farm in Legazpi in 2000. Legazpi is located in the Bicol region, about 12 hours by bus from metro Manila. Currently, the Agricultural Technology Center and Don Bosco Demonstration Farm are facilitated by two Salesian priests, Rector Fr. Javines and Economer Fr. Martel, and two Salesian brothers. The Salesian programs follow that of others in the Philippines that aim to educate poor and at-risk youth to ensure they gain an education and skills for future employment.
The center educates 170 rural youth each year and the farm helps more than 2,000 young graduates start their own livelihoods. The Agricultural Technology Center offers its students an opportunity to combine theory with practice. The young students learn through a hands-on approach and learning in a classroom. They are able to take their classroom skills and put them directly to work on the farm fields that are a part of the center. Students are taught theoretical and practical courses in greenhouses, growing vegetables, cereal crops, gardening, breeding, animal husbandry and veterinary sciences, and about milk, cheese and dairy products.
The Don Bosco Demonstration Farm further allows graduates and their families to use the land to organize small cooperatives and assists them with sourcing microfinancing, farming assistance and the marketing of their agricultural products.
“The Agricultural Technology Center and Don Bosco Demonstration Farm were specifically opened to provide technical farming education mainly to poor youth with scarce resources, and instruct them on technical and practical knowledge of farming that would allow them to earn a living and give back to their communities,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Missionaries provide education and workforce development paired with other social services to help poor youth break the cycle of poverty and have hope for the future.”
The mission of the Salesian center and farm is to provide young farmers with a basic education, as well as advanced studies in the latest agricultural practices and modern technologies while moving toward efficiency in farming by exploring and testing new techniques in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry. Salesian missionaries hope the agriculture program will entice more local youth to choose agriculture as their long-term livelihood. With a long history of providing agricultural education, missionaries currently operate more than 90 agriculture schools around the world.
More than one quarter of the population of the Philippines lives in poverty, according to UNICEF. Poverty is most severe and widespread in rural areas where 80 percent of the population—close to 88 million people—make their home. The poorest Filipinos are indigenous populations, small-scale farmers who cultivate land received through agrarian reform, landless workers and fishermen. In addition, poverty rates are higher for women than men.
Illiteracy and high levels of unemployment contribute to the elevated poverty rate. With more than 11 million out-of-school youth in the country and drop-out rates doubling as children reach secondary school, access to education becomes a critical step in breaking the cycle of poverty. Throughout the Philippines, Salesian missionaries offer a variety of educational and social development programs for youth, many with an emphasis on recreation and sports activities. The goal is to provide the opportunities necessary to gain an education and skills training to break the cycle of poverty and retain long-term employment.
UNICEF – Philippines