In News: Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for measures to prevent agro brain drain and attract educated youth to take up farming as a profession.
- He opined that the future of Indian agriculture lies in the hands of technology-driven farming practices, powered by well- informed and modern-minded farmers.
- Agriculture is the pillar of India’s ecology, culture and civilisation. There is a need for changing focus from food security to nutrition security.
- The Vice President stressed on the need to reduce agri-input costs and called for promoting organic farming in a big way.
- Emphasizing the need to move away from chemical farming, he said, organic farming is beneficial for all stakeholders including the farmers, the consumers and the environment.
- He called for making organic agriculture a mass movement not only for a ‘wealthy nation’ but also a ‘healthy nation’.
In 2016, the average age of an Indian farmer was 50.1 years. This is worrying because the next generation of the current farmers is quitting the profession. It means we are approaching a situation where one of the biggest consumers of food will be left with few farmers. Today, both middle-aged and young people are shunning agriculture. There might not be a next generation of farmers left in the country.
In 2011, 70 per cent of Indian youths lived in rural areas where agriculture was still the main source of livelihood. According to the 2011 Census, every day 2,000 farmers give up farming. The income of a farmer is around one-fifth of a non-farmer.
The Indian Agro Brain Drain
The youth among the farming communities are hardly interested in agriculture — so much that a majority of students graduating from agricultural universities switch to other professions.
As it emerges, those who work in family farms or are in some other way involved in farming are also doing so with compulsion.
Only 1.2 per cent of 30,000 rural youth surveyed by non-profit Pratham for its 2017 Annual Status of Education Report aspired to be farmers. While 18 per cent of the boys preferred to join the army and 12 per cent wanted to become engineers. Similarly, for girls, who play a major role in traditional farming, 25 per cent wanted to be teachers.
Recognising the fact that the farmers are unorganized and voiceless, the 4 Ps–Parliament, political leaders, policymakers and press must pro-actively adopt a positive bias towards agriculture.
There is a need to kindle the interest and contribution of rural youths towards agriculture to ensure the prosperity of the agriculture sector because youth have the zeal to make things work in an innovative manner. The government on regular intervals has appealed to the youth to explore career opportunities in agriculture, livestock research. It is the time to understand that it is the youth who can extract the needed benefits and evolve an innovative way of farming keeping in mind the conditions like climate change and other seasonal abnormalities.
The focus is needed on the strategy to make agriculture an occupation that not only ignites youth’s interest but also convert it into a financially promising sector.
- Link Social Media to Agriculture: By interconnecting agriculture and social media, youth can be directed towards re-routing the needed innovation and technology into the agriculture sector.
- Image management: Farming is never presented as a young mind’s game in media. There is a crucial need of awareness and the advantages of having a prosperous agricultural economy. The prospects of agriculture as a career should be made clear to the youth to engage them into the fields. The media, ICT and social media can all be used to cater to the need.
- Strengthening the education system in agriculture: Very few students opt to study agriculture. One of the main reasons behind the same can be a lack of quality training in the sector. The academic curriculum needs to be linked with the practicality and the real-life challenge, focusing on the research part and troubleshooting aiming at agribusiness and entrepreneurship as well as engaging the youth.
- Both the government and the corporate sector must increase the number of scholarships for agriculture students to enhance research and development. This will help them become better professionals and improve their earning capacities. The government must also enhance their professional status so that more youth take up jobs in this sector.
- The youth should also be taught about profitable farming techniques and systems so that less land and resources are used. They should not only be taught about integrated farming, but also about latest techniques in mushroom farming, freshwater aquaculture and dairy farming. They should also be given subsidy or loans to start food processing units.
- They must be trained to incorporate the latest technological breakthroughs in agriculture. The solutions lie in precision agriculture and organic farming. Agricultural institutions must hold training programmes to teach young farmers about post-harvest management and value additions. There is also a need to integrate the agro-economy through value chains and market linkages using cold storage systems. They must be also trained to be market savvy and produce foodstuff that use less land, water and inputs.
- Utilizing ICT (Information and Communication Technology): ICT can be relied upon for education and training purposes. Those sections can be targeted which are unable to attend higher education and also to disseminate the recent technology updates.
- Facilitate easy access to credit and land: The land is a scarce resource when it comes to agriculture, especially to youth. Without the presence of collateral, getting credit is impossible. Hence there is a need of a simpler system that can work through this challenge.
- Indian Agriculture Service: There is an immediate need to start a separate Indian Agriculture Service, on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Forest Service. This will not only make the agro- regulatory mechanism more robust but also generate jobs for students pursuing agriculture. Agriculture as a subject should be taught from the school level itself. It is time to bring little cheer to the farming community.
The Way Forward
- Incorporate all dimensions of sustainability—the economic, the social and the ecological into agricultural policy-making and planning. There should be a wider and more holistic view of agriculture, wherein the sustainability of plants, fishes, forests and livestock and their natural interdependence with the well-being of people are given due attention.
- Policymakers need to pay special attention to the welfare of women farmers.
- Farmers should be encouraged to take up allied activities like poultry, dairy, fisheries and horticulture to have income in case of a failed crop.
- Agricultural universities and Krishi Vignan Kendras to adopt a pro-active approach in bringing the latest research and innovation to the farmers. The lab-to-land concept has to be effectively implemented
- Loan waivers and subsidies provide temporary relief to farmers and are not sustainable solutions, both long-term and short-term measures are needed to ensure remunerative prices to farmers.
There is a tendency that the young generation may see agriculture as a non-profitable and obsolete sector to choose a career. Government must ensure that agriculture does not pose as a neglected sector and the existing farmers don’t feel left out.
Appropriate investments and payouts are necessary for any business to flourish and agriculture should be made a sector that should more effectively reduce poverty than any other investment.
Connecting the Dots:
- Teach them to become farm entrepreneurs. Comment.
- Agriculture is the biggest sector in India, yet the sector and its workforce are not valued. Do you agree? What can be the possible solutions?