A Futuremakers project that teaches agriculture to high school students in the Philippines has sown the seeds of Romeo’s future in farming – an aspiration that will benefit both family and his community economically.
Romeo is 22 years old and a recent graduate of the Catbalogan City Agro–Industrial School (CCAIS) in Samar, one of the lowest-income provinces in the Philippines.
New opportunities for learning
As implementing partner for Futuremakers Livelihood and Education for Agri-Aquaculture Development (LEAD) project, CCAIS educates senior high school students to promote agriculture and enhance food security.
What was once an abandoned jailhouse is now a centre of excellence in farming and fishery for young people to be trained in innovative technologies such as vermi-composting, agri-crop production and livestock farming.
Last year, Romeo graduated with a new set of skills and is now studying agriculture at a state university. “My mindset about being a farmer has completely changed,” he explains.
Before, I thought of farming as a lowly job. Now, I am inspired to learn more to become an ‘agri-preneur’ someday.
Romeo is on the right path to realise his ambition. Aside from his university studies, he is also President of the CCAIS Young Farmers Association and will be taking part in the third phase of the Futuremakers’ LEAD project in partnership with Philippine Business for Social Progress.
The seed funding, marketing support and further training he will receive in phase three will allow Romeo and other graduates to start their own small farm businesses.
The impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has made life more difficult for Romeo, his parents and five siblings, but he remains positive and continues to develop his farming skills, even while in lockdown.
“Our livelihood is affected by the quarantine measures,” he says. “But I have developed a small farm near our house and I am helping my parents plant rice and other crops. This means that even though our movement is limited, we have something productive to do that helps us earn money for our basic needs and to support my studies this coming school year.”
A leader in his community
Romeo has used lockdown as an opportunity to reflect on the future and how he can support his fellow farmers and the wider community in Catbalogan. One challenge for the community is finding a regular market for their farm produce so they can sell their products at a competitive price.
“Right now, our community needs seedlings and fertilizers. We also hope to have better roads to make it easier to market our harvest and products, and enable people to come to buy from us. This will help us to get a good price for the products and crops we sell.”
Romeo is just one of the many young beneficiaries of Futuremakers’ LEAD programme in the Philippines who aspire to have a better future through agriculture.