The country’s top scientists and academics are in talks for the possible development and offering of “Bachelor of Poverty Reduction in Agricultural Management” in state universities in a bid to boost the country’s economic growth and create opportunities for the poor.
The idea was first brought to light in a roundtable discussion last March organized by the Department of Science and Technology’s National Academy of Science and Technology where University of the Philippines Diliman Chancellor Sergio Cao welcomed the idea and encouraged his colleagues in the academe to offer such program in their campuses.
Cao said UP Diliman can take on such a program because it is “serious in undertaking poverty reduction initiatives.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor Grace Alfonso of the Los Baños-based UP Open University said that offering a degree program on poverty reduction is “timely, necessary, and addressed by many programs of the UP system.”
But she warned that BS Poverty Reduction may not easily become popular. “It is difficult to sell such a program. Only UP can be interested in it.”
But she is hopeful that in a few years such degree may become very popular and recommends that “politicians should take this program.”
(L-R) AIT Outreach Field Coordinator Nick Innes-Taylor, AIT Vice President for Academic Affairs Peter Haddawy, UP Diliman Chancellor Sergio Cao, and UP Open University Chancellor Grace Alfonso discuss the possibility of offering BS Poverty Reduction program in UP campuses.
UPOU is mandated to offer programs such as poverty reduction, although this course requires putting together enormous resources, she said.
National Scientist Gelia Castillo insists that should UP offer the program, it should be put under the College of Science. UP-Marine Science Institute professor Rhodora Azanza volunteered MSI to handle the program, “as the Philippines is more water than soil in terms of territory.”
Interest on the proposed program was inspired by the success story of a multi-agency initiative called Poverty Reduction in Agricultural Management program implemented in Laos under the Bangkok-based Asian Institute of Technology.
Nick Innes-Taylor of AIT’s Wetlands Alliance Programme explained that the program’s 25-unit core courses include agricultural communication, health and sanitation, agro-ecology, agricultural management, natural food security, poverty mitigation, and PRAM seminar, among others. These are on top of 18-unit orientation courses and 35-unit electives.
Should it materialize, the proposed Bachelor in Poverty Reduction program will lead in reorienting education toward alleviating poverty, proponents said.
In the Philippines, people who lived below the poverty line reached 44 percent in 1985 down to 24 percent in 2003, and then up again to 27 percent in 2006. However, the real (corrected for inflation) growth in gross national income (GNP) per capita did not actually benefit the poor because of fundamental flaws in the distribution of economic benefits. In 2004, for example, the country had $4,950 GNP per capita but with a population of 89,468,677.
Education in agriculture plays an important role in preparing farmers, researchers, educators, extension staff, agri-businesses, and others to make productive contributions, explains Peter Haddawy, AIT’s Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Agriculture education has to go through some changes and adaptations to contribute more effectively in improving food security, sustainable agricultural production, and rural development, he added.