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Sarangani young farmers triumph in regional Young Farmers Challenge

Young farmers from Sarangani have made their mark in the 2023 regional Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) of the Department of Agricultre (DA), held on November 8, 2023, at Paraiso Verde Resort and Hotel, in Koronadal City. Among the victors was Melvin Awid, a vanilla farmer from Maitum, who clinched the top spot in the YFC Upscale program.

Team Alabel, comprising Joseph Malantao, Khester Gabe Odango, and Patrisha Joyce Manalo, also emerged as regional winners in the YFC Startup program. Both teams are now gearing up to compete at the national level.

Awid was awarded PhP300,000, while Team Alabel received PhP150,000. These funds will be utilized to enhance their respective agricultural ventures. The Sarangani’s Office of the Provincial Agriculturist and Alabel’s Office of the Municipal Agriculturist staff members were present to support Team Sarangani.

“Securing the 1st place in the Department of Agriculture's YFC Upscale program is a testament to the collective efforts of the UF Vanilla Farm, the local community, and the Provincial Government of Sarangani,” said Awid.

“This achievement marks a significant milestone for Sarangani's young farmers, who are relatively new to the province's agricultural sector compared to their counterparts in other regions. Now, more than ever, it's crucial for us to come together to enhance our livelihoods through agriculture and improve the province's economic status,” he added.

“The Young Farmers Challenge program has provided us with a platform to turn our passion for assisting local farmers into reality. We are immensely grateful to Sen. Imee Marcos, DA XII, LGU Alabel, and all other partner agencies for their invaluable support in achieving this victory. It fills us with immense pride and anticipation to represent Region XII in the forthcoming national competition,” said Malantao, team leader of the MAGRICE App.

Launched by the DA’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS) and Senator Imee Marcos in 2021, the Young Farmers Challenge is a competitive grant program aimed at encouraging young individuals to start their own agri-fishery businesses.

Open to all young people with viable business proposals, the grants serve as startup capital for these enterprises, whether individually or group-managed, showcasing the potential of agri-fishery as a sustainable primary income source comparable to other industry or service sectors.

The DA 12 remains dedicated to nurturing young farmers and fostering their potential to become future agricultural leaders. The event honored the exceptional young farmers and best YFC program implementers in the region. Seven awardees in the startup category, one state university in the intercollegiate category, and three young farmers in the upscale category received financial grants from DA 12.

The ceremony was led by the Office of Senator Imee Marcos Region 12 Coordinator Jose Marie Tan Pestaño and DA 12 OIC Regional Executive Director John Pascual, who handed over the cheques to this year's YFC regional awardees. Pestaño highlighted the significance of the YFC Program, which offers financial aid and mentorship to young farmers, empowering them to transform their innovative ideas into successful agri-businesses.

Director Pascual expressed his optimism about the YFC Program's positive impact on the region's agricultural sector.

"By investing in the youth, we are investing in the future of agriculture in Region 12," he said.

The seven regional champions of the YFC Startup program, along with Melvin Awid, the top winner of this year's YFC Upscale category, are scheduled to present their agriculture-focused enterprises to a panel of judges later this month for the national awards in December.

The YFC program is a DA initiative that motivates young farmers to create and implement agri-fishery enterprises that address the country's agricultural needs and contribute to food security. (Genory Vanz Alfasain/Voice of the Youth Network; All photos are courtetesy of DA-RFO 12)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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