AT­TRACT­ING & RE­TAIN­ING YOUTH IN AGRI­CUL­TURE

Re­tain­ing and at­tract­ing tech-savvy and am­bi­tious youth in agri­cul­ture has be­come a big chal­lenge in to­day’s sce­nario. It’s pos­ing threats to the food se­cu­rity. Dr. N Para­sur­a­man, co­or­di­na­tor - Youth & Sus­tain­able Development, MS Swami­nathan Re­search Foun

Rural & Marketing - - FRONT PAGE - Dr. N Para­sur­a­man Prin­ci­pal Sci­en­tist, MSSRF

Youth con­sti­tute a ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, who mainly live in the ru­ral ar­eas. Thanks to the in­creased em­pha­sis on right to ed ed­u­ca­tion, il­lit­er­acy is slowly dis­ap­pear­ing. The go goal of Lit­er­acy For All pro­pounded by UNESCO is now be­com­ing an achiev­able one. Agri­cul­ture - co com­pris­ing crop and an­i­mal hus­bandry, fish­eries, fo forestry, agro-pro­cess­ing and agribusi­ness - pro­vides em em­ploy­ment to a ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion in de de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. How­ever, a re­cent re­view of th the progress made in achiev­ing the UN Sus­tain­able De Development Goals, re­veals that we still have a long wa way to go be­fore this par­tic­u­lar goal is re­alised.

It is, there­fore, es­sen­tial that we step up our

ef­forts to con­vert the de­mo­graphic div­i­dend aris­ing from our young and ed­u­cated youth into an as­set from the point of view of al­le­vi­at­ing hunger and poverty. It is clear from the avail­able ex­pe­ri­ence that youth will be at­tracted to agri­cul­ture and ru­ral development re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties only if they are in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing and eco­nom­i­cally re­ward­ing. Ac­cord­ingly, an ap­pro­pri­ate syn­ergy between tech­nol­ogy and pub­lic pol­icy is crit­i­cal for launch­ing a “youth in Sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural move­ment”. Some of the avail­able op­por­tu­ni­ties in In­dia for this pur­pose .

Ma­hatma Gandhi men­tioned over 70 years ago that the worst form of brain drain af­fect­ing the fu­ture of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries is the mi­gra­tion of brains from vil­lage to the city. He also men­tioned that that we can hope to achieve ru­ral trans­for­ma­tion and agrar­ian pros­per­ity only through the mar­riage of brain and brawn. This is why agri­cul­ture has to be­come a tech­no­log­i­cally at­trac­tive op­tion while young peo­ple em­bark upon shap­ing their fu­ture. At present, Busi­ness Process Out­sourc­ing (BPO) has be­come an im­por­tant source of in­come gen­er­a­tion mainly in ur­ban ar­eas in many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, to per­form tasks on be­half of in­dus­tri­alised na­tions. What we should try now is to en­sure that BPO shifts from ur­ban to ru­ral ar­eas also. In ad­di­tion, youth is in­volved in ex­ten­sion and ad­vi­sory ser­vices for im­part­ing knowl­edge as well as em­pow­ered to take sec­ondary and spe­cially agri­cul­ture re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties for higher pro­duc­tiv­ity, im­proved ef­fi­ciency and in­creased in­come.

Th­ese op­tions will pro­vide new op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­tel­lec­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing work for the ed­u­cated ru­ral women and men and thus help in at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing youth in agri­cul­ture and ru­ral development ac­tiv­i­ties. They could be in­volved in es­tab­lish­ing Ge­netic Gar­dens of Bio­for­ti­fied Plants, so as to pro­vide agri­cul­tural reme­dies for the nu­tri­tional mal­adies widely pre­vail­ing in many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, mainly in Sub Sa­ha­ran Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA).

Club/Cluster Ac­tion based on

skill en­hanc­ing and over­all soft­skill development of in­di­vid­ual, cen­tred on agri­cul­ture. This can also be in­te­grated into the high school cur­ricu­lum as vo­ca­tional pro­grammes.

Agri­cul­ture Me­chan­ics: Skill development in al­lied agri­cul­tural sec­tors, like farm equip­ment main­te­nance. This would help in ru­ral self-suf­fi­ciency and as a sus­tain­able in­come for the youth. Ed­u­ca­tion about safe equip­ment op­er­a­tion is also rel­e­vant.

Agron­omy: Plant-breed­ing and the sci­ence of re­claim­ing farm­lands (soil qual­ity, nu­tri­tive value of pro­duce, etc.) through or­ganic means re­quires in­ten­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­ten­sive knowl­edge about in­sects, weeds and her­bi­cides. In­volve­ment of agri­cul­tural uni­ver­si­ties is im­por­tant in this en­deav­our to en­sure ap­pli­ca­tion of sci­en­tific knowl­edge. Agribusi­ness: Pro­duce re­quires proper value ad­di­tion and stor­age fa­cil­i­ties to en­sure prof­itable mar­ket prices. The gov­ern­ment and

Train­ing in mar­ket­ing strate­gies and in­for­ma­tion about mar­ket cli­mate needs to be made avail­able to young farm­ers. For this ap­pro­pri­ate agen­cies have to BE IDEn­tI­fiED AnD tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped

its nodal agen­cies have a part to play in this. Train­ing in mar­ket­ing strate­gies and in­for­ma­tion about mar­ket cli­mate needs to be made avail­able to young farm­ers. For this ap­pro­pri­ate agen­cies have to be iden­ti­fied and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped, to sup­port once th­ese high-school­ers en­ter farm­ing.

Food Sciences: Train­ing and Tech­ni­cal Sup­port has to be pro­vided for youth to en­gage ac­tively in sec­ondary value ad­di­tion of pro­duce. Food preser­va­tion tech­niques such as jam­ming, pick­ling, jar­ring, canning, bot­tling etc. are ef­fec­tive value-adding pro­ce­dures. Con­duct­ing them on a do­mes­tic level us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods will re­duce costs and car­bon-print.

With re­spect to dairy and poul­try ac­tiv­i­ties, breed­ing, keep­ing and feed­ing need to be taught with ex­pert-con­sul­tancy keep­ing sen­si­tiv­i­ties to cul­tural and re­gional di­ver­sity in mind. Dairy, es­pe­cially gives out a wide range of prod­ucts, in­clud­ing those for ma­nure and or­ganic farm­ing. Bio­gas pro­duc­tion can be set up al­lied with dairy and poul­try farms.

Ju­nior Clubs (Age Group: 9-15 years)

Com­po­si­tion: The clubs will in­clude every child in the school that fall in this age group with­out any dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of caste, class, re­li­gion, gen­der or fam­ily back­ground. There will be no kind of fees col­lected from the mem­bers.

Func­tions: Clubs formed at schools will fo­cus on in­creas­ing nu­tri­tional aware­ness, con­sump­tion prac­tices and safe drink­ing wa­ter for all in a non-dis­crim­i­na­tive fash­ion. Each club will con­sist of a max­i­mum of 20 mem­bers, with even dis­tri­bu­tion of boys and girls. Hence mul­ti­ple clubs can be formed in each school.

An an­nual talent show of the club mem­bers will be con­ducted on the Club Day- which will be ob­served on Jan­uary 12th of every year, be­ing Na­tional Youth Day.

Ac­tiv­i­ties: School yard farm­ing and nutri­tion gar­den- rais­ing sim­ple veg­eta­bles/ tu­bers/ condi­ments like tapi­oca, cas­sava, yam, sweet potato, birds’ eye chilli, drum­sticks, goose­ber­ries etc. Th­ese can be in­cen­tivised as a cooking-cumeat­ing day for chil­dren, which will also help in dis­en­gag­ing link­ages between so­cial and eco­nom­i­cal groups. Poul­try through schools: Com­post-mak­ing, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of pests and dis­eases, seedling pro­duc­tion, bi­o­log­i­cal con­trol of pests and dis­eases through schools to cul­ti­vate or­ganic farm­ing prac­tices. Groups of chil­dren must take up or­ganic farm­ing projects as a com­pul­sory ac­tiv­ity.

In­tro­duce Agri-Sciences in School Cur­ricu­lum with ma­te­rial and teach­ers. It can also be in­tro­duced as a vo­ca­tional sub­ject. This will help iden­tify en­thu­si­as­tic chil­dren who will pos­si­bly take up higher stud­ies in Agri-Sciences at Univer­sity lev­els and there­fore, turn into agri­cul­ture busi­ness. They can be moulded and men­tored in this direction. Talk-Ac­tiv­i­ties: Ac­tiv­i­ties need to be de­signed to en­cour­age club mem­bers to speak in pub­lic. This can be ei­ther done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ex­ist­ing lan­guage classes or as ex­clu­sive club ac­tiv­ity, by which each mem­ber would have to speak for two min­utes in the school as­sem­bly.

Se­nior Club (Age Group: 1525 years)

Com­po­si­tion: School dropouts, Youth en­gaged in farm­ing, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of youth or­gan­i­sa­tions, Univer­sity stu­dents and in­ter­ested youth will be in­cluded in th­ese clubs on a com­mu­nity-level in­ter­ac­tion, ar­ranged in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the lo­cal gov­ern­ing bod­ies. Spe­cial in­cen­tives to at­tract fe­male mem­bers have to be taken by col­lect­ing their con­cerns and find­ing so­lu­tions to it.

Func­tion: To train youth in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion us­ing con­tem­po­rary sys­tems and mod­ern in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy. Pro­vi­sion of land rights to youth and youth or­gan­i­sa­tions will en­cour­age so­cio-eco­nomic development. Fa­cil­i­ta­tion of ac­cess to credit must be done so as to pro­mote youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in agri­cul­tural projects. The cen­tral­ity of ed­u­ca­tion and skills development pro­grammes for wealth cre­ation, so­cio-eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion and em­pow­er­ment is very eminent. En­hanc­ing the at­trac­tive­ness of ru­ral ar­eas to young peo­ple by im­prov­ing so­cioe­co­nomic in­fra­struc­ture will at­tract more youth to agri­cul­ture.

Ac­tiv­i­ties: Youth al­ready en­gaged in farm­ing or re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties - tra­di­tional farm­ers, Agri Univ Grads, skilled per­son­nel who have un­der­gone train­ing through ARYA - will act as men­tors to the club in terms of pro­vid­ing in­sights into the agri­cul­tural meth­ods, soil hus­bandry and gain­ful prac­tices.

Nodal agen­cies in col­lab­o­ra­tion with uni­ver­si­ties must of­fer de­mand driven short and long term di­ploma cour­ses at cer­tifi­cate to di­ploma level in agri­cul­tural based pro­grammes to equip farm­ers and other stake­hold­ers with bet­ter farm­ing skills and agribusi­ness man­age­ment. Com­post mak­ing: Fo­cus on cer­tain niche prod­ucts like mush­room, flow­ers, pro­duc­tion of plant­ing ma­te­ri­als like graft­ing, cut­ting lay­er­ing, seedling pro­duc­tion. Ini­ti­ate ac­tion in solv­ing com­mu­nity prob­lems like wa­ter, elec­tric­ity etc. for the vil­lage.

Agri­cul­ture as the en­gine of job-led growth

In­creas­ing de­mands for reser­va­tion in the pub­lic sec­tor may be linked to the stag­na­tion of agri­cul­ture and grow­ing agrar­ian dis­tress. Agri­cul­ture pro­motes job-led growth, if there is in­te­grated at­ten­tion to on-farm and non­farm em­ploy­ment in ru­ral ar­eas. Un­less op­por­tu­ni­ties are cre­ated for eco­nom­i­cally re­ward­ing and in­tel­lec­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing self­em­ploy­ment for youth, com­pe­ti­tion for jobs in the or­gan­ised sec­tor will grow, as will the clam­our for reser­va­tion.

Smart vil­lages

Dr. APJ Ab­dul Kalam stim­u­lated wide­spread in­ter­est in ru­ral development by em­pha­sis­ing that our vil­lages should also have ac­cess to ur­ban ameni­ties like energy, wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion, health­care, ed­u­ca­tion among other ameni­ties. Of late, there have been sev­eral ini­tia­tives both in In­dia and abroad on meth­ods of achiev­ing this goal. A re­cent one is the ini­tia­tive of a group in Cam­bridge, UK, in the form of or­gan­i­sa­tion of ‘Smart Vil­lages’. Smart Vil­lages un­der this pro­gramme con­sider “ac­cess to sus­tain­able energy ser­vices as a cat­a­lyst for development, en­abling the pro­vi­sion of good ed­u­ca­tion and health­care, ac­cess to clean wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and nutri­tion, the growth of pro­duc­tive en­ter­prises to boost in­comes and en­hanced se­cu­rity, gen­der equal­ity and demo­cratic en­gage­ment.”

(The views are ex­pressed are au­thor’s own)

Un­less op­por­tu­ni­ties are cre­ated for eco­nom­i­cally re­ward­ing and in­tel­lec­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing self­em­ploy­ment for youth, com­pe­ti­tion for jobs in the or­gan­ised sec­tor will grow

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