NEW AGE FARMING: YOUTH & AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is one of the largest sectors in India upon which about 2/3rd of India’s population is dependent, almost 50% of India’s workforce is in agriculture. There was a time when India had to import grains and essential commodities from other countries to survive due to the shortage of food during the 1960s. Agricultural reforms and scientific developments helped us to overcome that situation. During those days agriculture had its privileges, farmers were respected and many schemes were introduced only to develop agriculture to its highest possibility.

We all depend on the food to survive which our farmers produce, though today if we look at the majority of the families in rural or urban areas, whether rich or poor or middle-class and ask their children about their career they would answer anything except agriculture. The parents are also not interested in encouraging their children to choose to farming. Even according to the studies conducted, out of 0.4 million students from the Agricultural Universities, only 0.1 million students actually pursue their career in agriculture, rest of them switch to other careers even before completing their graduation in agriculture. According to a census in 2011, in India, every day, about 2000 farmers give up farming. Why is this happening in our country? What happens if our next generation gives up farming? Let’s look into this problem in more detail and discuss the opportunities that can help our youth to engage in agriculture.

SOME REASONS THAT DISCOURAGES OUR YOUTH TO TAKE UP FARMING

The Agro Brain-Drain:

One of the major reasons why India’s youth aren’t interested in taking up farming is because there is no guarantee of income and neither any institutions that provide agricultural jobs. The only reason our existing farmers cope-up with this problem is because of the existing MSP (Minimum Support Price) for a few crops set by the government. MSP can give the guaranteed price so that the farmers will not have to worry about market prices and demands. In the current scenario, the protests are going on between the government and the farmers on farm-bills, in which one of the major reasons for the protest itself is the MSP, without which the farmers would get exploited.

Parental Influences:

The parent’s role in this also affects the next generation to give up the idea of agriculture as a profession because they think it is not profitable and stable. Everybody wants their son/daughter to be an engineer or a doctor, which is the trend we can see in India.

Even the children of farmers look for other fields of work because all they see is their parents suffering to earn a reasonable income from farming. According to an ‘Economic Survey’ conducted in 2016–17, the average annual salary of farmers living in 17 states of India was Rs.20,000 which means that monthly salary is around Rs.1,700 only. This creates a bad picture in the minds of youth. But we have to realize that those old farmers didn’t have much access to knowledge about profitable farming techniques, about the modern machinery, and digital platforms available today. If the youth become active in the agriculture sector, with proper training they can make use of all these opportunities and inspire many more people by showing them it is a profitable career.

Ignorance of Farmers’ Wage:

At the beginning of MSP in the 1970s, the price for wheat was Rs.79 per quintal and at the present, it is Rs.1975 per quintal. This means that there is an increase in the price of wheat by 19%, which also means that the farmers’ income has increased by 19%. At the same time, the average salary of a school peon or any lower-level government employee has increased by 120–150% (about 300 times) than their salaries in the 1970s.

This shows that farmers have to sacrifice inflation while other sectors enjoy it. Roughly speaking, the income of a farmer is about 1/5th of a non-farmer. It is even referred to as a ‘Loss-making venture’ by few farmers itself because of the failures they have gone through.

Rising Input Costs:

‘Rising input costs’ is another issue that forces even the existing farmers to quit farming. Along with the rising cost of commodities and rising wages for the labourers also accounts for this problem, since agriculture involves a lot of manpower. These labourer costs could be reduced by utilising the technologies and machinery for large landholdings, but most of the farmers have less amount of land which is why they can’t afford to utilise those machinery.

HOW TO ENCOURAGE OUR YOUTH FOR AGRICULTURE?

It is important to take necessary steps to encourage our youth to take up farming, especially people from village and rural areas whose main livelihood is still agriculture. By 2050, India’s estimated 2/3rd of 1.9 billion population will grow up to a middle-income group which will double the food demand.

There are numerous ways to increase the job opportunities of students in agriculture such as schemes introduced by the government that allows students to have a license to market and supply fertilizers and pesticides used in farming. This can also be done in a way that helps farmers to understand the correct amount and type of fertilizer used for a particular crop, thereby increasing their product quality.

The government should consider giving opportunities for the students in agriculture to take respective jobs in all the fields related to agriculture such as the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). But this type of job is given to management students or even engineering graduates, who don’t have any knowledge about agriculture. The government and also the corporate sectors must encourage agricultural students by giving scholarships to conduct research and developments in the agriculture field and also should raise the professional status of these jobs which are given to all engineering and MBBS students so that more people will get attracted to take up agricultural jobs.

The government must ensure MSP for other crops as well rather than very few essential crops, the government should also invest in high-yielding drought-resistant crop varieties that are already used by many private sectors around the world. This will take away the fear of market risks from the youth starting to practice agriculture. The youth should also be taught and trained in profitable farming techniques, digital platforms to help marketing and methods for effective water harvesting and irrigation. This will help them to use the land and resources in a sustainable way without facing loss.

Other methods in farming include Precision farming, Farm automation techniques, Vertical farming, Greenhouses, Freshwater aquaculture and dairy farming or livestock-farming.

Agro-business should be taught to the students. They should be given subsidies or loans at lower interest rates to start business-related units like food processing units, that could be placed near the farm itself to reduce the cost of transportation. This can improve their income as well as provide job opportunities for others to work in it.

Along with providing these loans, the government should also make sure to arrange for agencies that could rent the latest machinery to farmers, which are otherwise expensive to buy. This could help farmers to save a lot of money in the investment and can also increase their productivity.

The digital platforms should be used efficiently to make awareness in farmers about any new reforms or schemes are available or to inform the farmers about the latest weather forecasts, suitable sowing time of crops and amount of fertilizers or pesticides that could be used.

Forming a Farmers Producer Organisation (FPO) can encourage many farmers and other people to collaborate and work together to increase productivity, sale of produce, marketing and also to increase the job opportunities for youth.

Creating transparency marketing systems in packaged food products to make people aware what they eat!

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