Agriculture: A Science, An Art

By Uriel K. Tumanan

What is the first picture that comes to mind when a foreigner is asked what he thinks of the Philippines? Pristine beaches, lush, exotic forests, and verdant fields.

Being the resourceful, industrious people that we Filipinos are also known for, we maximized these God-given natural resources, and somehow made agriculture our main source of livelihood, marketable surplus, and source of raw material, among many other things.

Unsurprisingly, despite the plans to make it an industrialized country, our country’s economic stability relies on the state of its agriculture. Agriculture plays a crucial role in the life of an economy. It not only provides food and raw materials but also employment opportunities to a very large population.

Climate Change
An archipelagic country like the Philippines is at risk from ever-rising sea levels, stronger, more frequent typhoons, and the unpredictable nature and cycles of El Niño, which due to the denuding of our forests and the erosion of our mountains, causes more damages and deaths unseen in previous generations.

In fact, the Global Climate Risk Index of 2015 listed the Philippines as “the number one most affected country by climate change.”

As Chief Legal Counsel of the Climate Change Commission Efren Basco said, “The base of our economy is agriculture. We still center on agriculture.”

Increasing temperatures are likely to have a negative effect on the yields of wheat, rice, and various crops, locally and internationally speaking. Each degree Celsius increase in global mean temperature is estimated to reduce average global yields of wheat by 6%.

As a country which relies mostly on agriculture for most of its food and material needs, climate change may prove to be a substantial problem as our agricultural sector bears the burden of its negative impacts.

Agriculture is an environment-dependent activity that involves the use of ecosystem goods and services and environmental resources such as land, soil, water, and energy. As the battle against man-made and natural disasters wages on, man should find more intelligent and viable ways of making and securing food in order to ensure his survival.

A Compelling Vision
Sustainable agricultural production contributes to long- term food security. The promotion and support of sustainable agriculture that conserves land, water, biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as providing education about the climate change and natural disasters, is top priority in developing countries with much land to cultivate and grow crops.

With these in mind, the College of Agriculture was quickly conceptualized. It is a brainchild of Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo, the Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.

The New Era University Branch in Pinugay, Baras, Rizal was granted recognition by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on September 14, 2018. It is positioned in a strategic location, a 50-hectare site in Pinugay, Baras, Rizal, just a few miles away to the Masungi Georeserve, also known as “the first conservation project in the Philippines.”

The groundbreaking ceremony of the new main building in the NEU Rizal Branch took place immediately, led by the Executive Minister together with the University officials.

The NEU College of Agriculture opened its classrooms to its thirty-seven (37) pioneering students under the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture program on January 7, 2019.

“This milestone marks the beginning of the realization of the vision of our beloved Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, that a College of Agriculture be established to train the youth of the Church to become excellent agriculture leaders, managers, entrepreneurs and experts,” College of Agriculture Dean Dr. Perigio B. Francisco Jr., said during the formal opening of the college.

He noted how the University had initiated talks with ambassadors of friendly foreign governments, “notably Israel, Japan and Russia” for partnerships in various agricultural projects.

Stewards of the Land
Although our country is rich in agricultural potential, inadequate infrastructure, lack of financing, land reform problems, lack of irrigation, farm to market roads, and more problems lead to limited productivity gains.

The NEU College of Agriculture aims to increase awareness and educate on the global problem on food scarcity, security, and production, and encourage young students to lend their minds on manual work and research in the field of agriculture including its different sectors (forestry, fruit cultivation, dairy, poultry, mushroom, bee keeping, arbitrary, etc.)

It also seeks to teach students basic, practical and advanced knowledge in modern agriculture that will mold them to be effective future farm managers, productive farmers, agriculture experts, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists and educators.

As Dr. Francisco Jr. said during his address, “The wealth and knowledge and life experiences that you bring to this school will surely make the teaching and learning process both challenging and exciting.”

Truer words were never spoken.