BAGUIO CITY- Former Agriculture Secretary William Dar stressed the importance of research and development in agriculture to be able to attain sustainable development in the country. Dar was a guest speaker during the Regional Symposium on the United Nations Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals organized by NEDA-CAR on February 27, 2019.

Dar detailed the major challenges to the Philippine’s agriculture sector where climate change, high poverty rates, rapid population growth, and aging farmers and fishers are hindering the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals on food security, reducing malnutrition, and preventing land degradation.

He shared that the Cordillera is more vulnerable to the challenges of climate change. Aside from Benguet which has the third lowest poverty incidence in the country, all Cordillera provinces are ranked among the top 50 percent of provinces in the country with the highest poverty incidence. Among the strengths of the Cordillera, Dar notes, is its significant share in the production of several high-value crops such as potato, pechay, cabbage, and carrots. The Cordillera produces 70 to 80 percent of all production. However, most of the region’s production remains to be for rice and corn which accounts for a combined 687,000 metric tons in 2017.

Nearly half of the workers in the region are employed in the agricultural sector although agriculture has not been a major driver of growth in the Cordillera economy. Dar urged that there is potential in the region to develop agriculture but research and development must be fast-tracked. He said that research in agriculture can help increase production through innovations and help formulate evidence-based policies.

He also stressed that the younger generation must be enticed to work in the agriculture sector and proposed the transformation of agriculture into agribusiness and the introduction of innovations in agriculture production processes. “Show them that it pays to invest in agriculture”, Dar said.  Dar emphasized that the strategy would be to develop agriculture is to transform it into “agri-industry”. “If you look at agriculture as an industry, it connotes that it’s beyond mere production”, he said. Dar emphasized that value can be gained from various parts of the industry, from the initial harvesting and processing, to selling value-added agri-products and exportation.

William Dar is a former Secretary of Agriculture and former faculty of the Benguet State University. He spoke as part of the Regional Symposium on the United Nations Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Self-determined development in the Cordillera organized by NEDA-CAR. Other speakers included NEDA Assistant Secretary for Regional Development Mercedita Sombilla and Department of Justice Cheryl Assistant Secretary Cheryl Daytec-Yañgot who talked about strategies in which to achieve and localize the UN SDGS in the Cordillera region through self-determination and regional autonomy.