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
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.
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