Encouraging youth towards agri-entrepreneurship

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Dr Banarsi Lal

India has the largest population of youth in the world. According to 2011 census, more than half of the Indian population is under the age of 25 years and 65 per cent is under the age of 35 years. More than 75 million youth worldwide youth are looking for work according to UN International Labour Organisation (ILO). Any development agenda cannot be possible without participation of youth. Young people are the innovators, builders, creators and leaders of future. But they can transform future only when they have proper education, skills, decision making ability, good health etc. Agriculture is the prime source of livelihood for majority of population in hilly Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. This beautiful UT is dominated by small size of landholders who have limited resources. The interest of youth of J&K is declining in agriculture due to various reasons. By adopting the new ideas, technologies and concepts youth can be the ideal catalyst to make agriculture more profitable. The migration of rural people to urban areas is around 45 per cent out of which 30 per cent are youth. Through commercial agriculture many employment opportunities for the rural youth of J&K can be created. There is need to promote agri-entrepreneurship in J&K to generate interest and confidence among the rural youth of J&K. Agribusiness sector has the potential to contribute to a range of social and economic developments such as employment generation, poverty reduction, income generation, improvement in food nutrition and overall food security. New strategy is needed to support new agri-entrepreneurs to succeed in running their farms and agribusinesses. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has initiated Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture (ARYA) scheme to realize the importance of rural youth in agricultural development. It was initiated in 2015-16 in 25 districts of India. Presently, it is implemented through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in 100 districts of India. The main intention of the scheme is to turn agriculture and allied sectors into an attractive and profit making proposition for the rural youth. It helps to attract and empower the rural youth to take up various agriculture and allied services sectors enterprises for sustainable income and gainful employment. It helps to demonstrate functional linkages with different institutions and stakeholders for convergence of opportunities available under various schemes/programmes for sustainable development of youth. KVK Reasi and Kathua are also implementing this scheme in Jammu province of J&K and special efforts are being made to attract, engage and retain youth in agriculture through the development of different enterprises to check the migration of rural youth to urban areas and create employment in rural areas. Awareness/orientation programmes are initially conducted at village level to sensitise individual youth/SHGs/NGOs etc. Under this scheme youth of 18-35 years of age are selected for the development of essential enterprises. Specific trainings on particular enterprises are organised for the rural youth to make them agri-entrepreneurs. Youth are our greatest asset. Youth have creative minds and are capable of achieving seemingly impossible tasks such as monsoon management, climate change adaptation, mitigation and enduring malnutrition. Average size of land holding in the Union Territory of J&K is small as compared to national average. Hence, group cooperation is important to harness the value of scale both in the production and post-harvest phases of farming. Rural youth can play a significance role in shaping the future of agriculture. There is a need of agri-business centres and agri-clinics centres on a big scale. Farm schools need to be established in the fields of young farmers so as to promote the farmer-to-farmer learning. Value addition in agriculture is needed in order to increase the income and employment. New agricultural technologies need to be introduced after careful consideration of risks and benefits so that their adoption rate can be enhanced.
Youth are the primarily productive human resource for socio-economic development of the nation. Thus, there is need to divert their role in mainstream development. J&K youth is diverse in ethnicity, religion and socio-economic backgrounds. Such diversity necessitates customized initiatives to meet the needs and activate their untapped potential. There is need to work on biotechnology, biodiversity, eco-technology, food security, education and information and communication technologies. The strategic and participatory research, capacity building, networking and partnership building should be adopted including the principle of social inclusion in access to technologies which further can enhance the income and conserve natural resources. The research and outreach strategies need to be devised to bridge the rich-poor and gender divides in the areas of information, knowledge and skill empowerment. There is dire need to make agriculture more attractive and rewarding for the younger generation through the introduction of innovative technologies. Agriculture is the backbone of J&K. Till now agriculture continues to be at the mercy of the monsoon. It is imperative for the nation to produce food not only to feed its population but also for an equal number of livestock. It is fact that if farmers work in the field, the non-farmers are able to eat. The agriculture sector has the potential to provide numerous employment opportunities in food production, marketing, processing, retail, input sales, research and extension etc in J&K. There is need to work towards the goal of sustaining and aiding youth engaged in agriculture. Presently rural areas in J&K today are undergoing a phenomenal transformation. The government subsidies for mechanization of agricultural fields have brought on a renaissance, changing the face of J&K villages and farmers. Many villages in J&K are endowed with rich resources to cultivate cereals, vegetables, fruits, pulses and oilseeds. It is imperative to make agriculture a lucrative and profitable occupation in order to increase the number of youth in agriculture. Income and employment among the rural youth can be increased by combining hard work with modern technologies. Youngsters can play a major role in conserving the natural resources. Climate change is the burning issue and avertable disasters are creating havoc everywhere. Technologies need to be technically accessible, culturally acceptable and environmentally feasible. There is need to create opportunities in seed/planting material industry for the young generation of J&K. We need to have a high-yielding/hybrid seeds and proper seed inputs for better returns. Availability of quality seeds must be ensured for seasonal crops. Value added technologies, warehousing and storage/cold storage facilities for the agricultural commodities should be provided to the rural youth. Rural youth of J&K can tap the opportunities of natural farming and organic farming and produce safe and healthy food as J&K has the potential for these practices. Through these practices they can generate more income and employment for themselves. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) forecasting mark situations can also help rural youth tremendously. Rural youth of J&K need to be educated on export chances and stress on Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs) needs to be given for this purpose.
(The author is Head, KVK Reasi, SKUAST-J).