Rural Youth and Contribution in Agricultural Transformation:
27th Mar, 2021
- Agriculture contributes 17% to GDP and 50% population is dependent on it. There is a constant push to scale up the production and despite pandemic, the sector has given enormous production.
- To meet the demands, think tanks have suggested use of science and technology and innovations with out of box solutions for higher productivity and income.
- Here comes the critical role of skilled rural youth for the growth of the agricultural sector as ‘agents of change’.
- Rural youth should invest in agri-entrepreneurship to generate stable revenue for them as well as the rural population.
Rural to Urban Migration: A big challenge
- Every minute around 25-30 dwellers migrate to urban areas in search of better opportunities and better livelihood.
- Average age of farmers is 55 years while the average age of India is 29 years.
- If this situation exists for long then food security issues may rise in front of the country. M. S. Swaminathan recommended issues to be resolved in a systematic manner.
- Later National Policy for Farmers 2007 was accepted by parliament to empower and encourage rural youth to take up self-employment in agriculture and allied sectors.
Opportunities and Offers to retain youth in Agriculture:
- Transformation into profitable sector: Agriculture needs to be transformed into a high profitable venture with low risks and stability of income.
- Exotic flowers and vegetables, medicinal mushrooms and herbs, high-value spices, have opened a new pathway to gain maximum profit from minimum land and resources.
- In animal husbandry sector, dairying has emerged as one of the most lucrative 'profession' mainly due to a wide range of new products that have captured market recently; these include flavored milk, A2 milk, organic milk, flavored and frozer, yoghurt, dairy whiteners and whey.
- Adoption of modern technologies: Adopting integrating farming models, precision farming, organic farming, protected cultivation, vertical farming are some potential options.
- Addressing new opportunities: Consumers are increasingly inclined towards camel milk, goat milk and donkey milk due to their exclusive health benefits; and this opportunity needs to be explored by youth for business opportunities.
- Smart technologies: Frontier areas of smart technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, remote sensing, data analytics, various Internet of Things (loT) devices, ICT apps, farming automations and drone technologies, are providing ample choices to select one, based on individual skills and resources.
- Digital platforms: During the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, agri—tech startups stepped up and connected farmers with buyers on digital platforms. Some startups helped farmers by even directly selling the produce to consumers. In the post COVID-19 era, agri-startups are likely to play a seminal role in strengthening rural economy by pushing agricultural growth.
- Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare organises an annual event like Agri-India Hackathon 2020 wherein agri-tech startups are given opportunity to provide commercially viable and innovative solutions for identified challenge problems.
- 'Agri-clinic and Agribusiness Centres' is another scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' welfare to foster entrepreneurship in the agriculture sector.
ARYA to MAYA:
- The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), apex body for spearheading agricultural research, education and extension in the country, launched a special project in 2015-16 to attract and empower rural youth to take up entrepreneurship in the agriculture sector. Entitled as 'Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture' (ARYA).
- Enabled youth are facilitated and supported to establish micro-enterprise units in vocations such as apiary, mushroom, seed processing, poultry, dairy, vermi compost etc.
- To steer the ARYA programme in the most gainful direction, ICAR took the initiative to develop a road map by organising a specific conference in 2018 on the theme, 'Motivating and Attracting Youth in Agriculture' (MAYA). The MAYA roadmap envisages grooming of rural youth in application of modern technologies in agriculture for economic growth and social respect.
Tapping Young Minds:
- A comprehensive scheme, entitled 'Student READY' (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana), was launched from the academics session 2016-17. This is a well-structured one-year programme which includes several components designed to provide the requisite skills to agricultural graduates. The programme includes five critical components:
- Experiential Learning (Business mode, Hands-on training, skill development)
- RAWE- Rural Awareness Works Experience,
- In- Plant Training,
- Industrial Attachment or Internship and
- Student Project.
- Indian Council of Agricultural Research, has established 452 Experiential Learning Units in Agricultural Universities across the country with the objective to promote professional skills and knowledge through meaningful hands-on-experience.
- The ICAR supports graduating students with a monthly stipend of Rs. 3,000 for a maximum of six months while undertaking 'Student READY' programme.
- ICAR recently revamped the higher agricultural education network and launched the World Bank assisted 'National Agricultural Higher Education Project' (NAHEP) in Agricultural Universities across the country. The project is promoting efficiency and competitiveness with a view to make agricultural education more attractive to talented students.
To attract and sustain the youth in the agriculture sector, we need to develop a potent strategy with comprehensive backing from government bodies and public policy making institutions. We need to assure that the core concerns of rural youth are addressed effectively. Developing a new generation of 'Agri-preneurs' will be a stimulant to achieve the government's goal of doubling farmers' income in real terms by 2022.