(GIST OF KURUKSHETRA) Rural Youth and Agricultural Transformation
Rural Youth and Agricultural Transformation
- Agriculture sector is vital for health and growth of national economy as it contributes around 17 percent in GDP, 13 percent to exports and 55 percent to employment. Even during the distress of COVID-19 or Coronavirus pandemic, among many other economic sectors, agriculture emerged as the only bright spot with the positive growth. Additionally, agriculture sustains food and nutritional security for a 1.32 billion strong nation in a self-reliant mode.
- India needs to constantly push-up agriculture and allied activities for enhancing per unit productivity in a sustainable manner to meet future demand of food, fodder and fiber.
- To meet the objective, Indian think-tank have suggested to transform agricultural practices leveraging science, technology and innovations with out-of-box solutions for persisting issues that mar productivity, profitability and prospects for higher income.
- Here comes the critical role of rural youth that are widely regarded as the ‘agents of change’ because of their effectiveness in the process of dissemination and adoption of modern techniques and acceptance of innovations among rural people.
- The involvement of youth is integral to agriculture as they possess requisite zeal, energy and vigour along with innate drive to take risks and swim against the tide which is needed in farm sector.
- Besides, rural youth are now more qualified and tech-savvy with basic management skills and a little business orientation as well. In addition to farming and related enterprises, present day rural youth is also fit to take up specific entrepreneurship projects in agri-sector.
- According to the field reports, rural youth are keen to take up agri-enterprises that are comparatively risk-free and generate stable revenue.
Rural-Urban Migration- A Big Challenge:
- Currently, when India needs its youth power in farms and fields the most, the nation is struggling with the grim challenge of rural-urban migration.
- Every minute, 20-25 rural dwellers migrate to cities in search of better livelihood and lifestyle. If the trend and pace continues, Indian urban population is likely to reach 600 million by 2030.
- Out of total migrants from rural to urban areas, youth account for nearly 30 percent, which is an issue of worry for policy planners engaged in future of agriculture in India.
- Various studies and surveys indicate that majority of rural youth have lost interest and confidence in agriculture and allied activities mainly due to unstable income, depleting natural resources and poor image of farming as a profession. Shrinking land holdings, inadequate access to finance, limited marketing avenues, and paucity of mentorship or guidance are some other socio-economic factors responsible for exodus.
- Unlike their urban counterparts, rural youth have limited opportunities for higher education, especially for enhancing technical skills and competence. Rural youth move towards urban centres mainly for acquiring vocational education and technical skills that will fetch a secured and ‘white-collar’ job in cities.
Opportunities and Offers:
- To attract rural youth towards agriculture, as a first step, agriculture needs to be transformed into a high-profitable venture with low risks and stable income. Farm activities will have to be diversified with cash yielding, low volume, high-value and demand-driven quality output.
- Adoption of integrated farming models, precision farming, organic farming, protected cultivation, multiple and vertical use of farmland and pisciculture are some other potential options to increase farming income multifold. Current thrust and market-demand (both domestic and overseas) of specialty horticultural products, such as 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 frozen, yoghurt, dairy whiteners and whey. 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.
- The Government is supporting and motivating youth, to take up some off-beat agri-allied activities, such as beekeeping, sericulture, lac farming etc. as a profitable venture for livelihood. Value-addition and primary food processing (cleaning), grading, packing whole or packing ready-to-cook normal or freeze-dried cuts are easy to adopt enterprises especially for youth. The Government is supporting farm-gate processing facilities to increase income, enhance employment opportunities and also minimise wastage of produce.
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 agriculture sector. Entitled as ‘Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture’ (ARYA), this project identifies rural youth (under the age of 35 years) and orients them towards entrepreneurial skill development for gaining sustainable income and livelihood. Enabled youth are facilitated and supported to establish micro-enterprise units in vocations such as apiary, mushroom, seed processing, poultry, dairy, goatry, carphatceryvermi compost etc. Initially, the program was implemented in 25 identified districts in 25 states through ICAR-KVKs (Krishi Vigyan Kendras) as nodal centres. ARYA has been successful in creation of economic models in villages that are manned by KVK-trained rural youth. Such gainful models are catalyzing and energising youth to become entrepreneurs in rural areas and guide others in their vicinity.
Tapping Young Minds:
- The Government intends to make agricultural education more relevant and responsive for development of entrepreneurship skills in students. Hence, 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 was implemented through 55 Agricultural Universities in the country as an essential pre-requisite for the award of undergraduate degree. 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.
- To attract and sustain the youth in 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.