Attracting rural youth in agriculture

Dr. Banarsi Lal, Dr. Pawan Sharma
According to the UN youth is defined as a person in 15-24 years of age group whereas the census of India treats people in the age group of 15-29 years as youths. The participation of the rural youths for development in J&K can be more impressive if more attention is paid on them. According to 2011 census, population of Jammu and Kashmir is 1.25 crores, of which 6,640,662 are males and 5,900,640 are females. Sex ratio in Jammu and Kashmir is 889 i.e. there are only 889 females per 1000 males much below the national average of 940 females per 1000 males. The economy of Jammu and Kashmir has been facing an armed conflict from the last 30 years. Disturbance due to militancy in the state has deeply affected people’s employment, their attitude, behaviour, habits, health etc.  The rural youths of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered a lot especially after 80s and this process is continued. Rural youths of the state can contribute significantly to the economy of the state. Rural youths are the key agents for the development of the state. Government have launched a number of state and centrally sponsored schemes in the state from time to time for the upliftment of rural youths. It has been observed that rural youths of the state have innate capabilities to change the destiny of the state. Rural youths are the future of the agricultural sector in the state. A large number of rural youths of the state are migrating towards the urban areas in search of employment and to live a better life. They are migrating towards urban areas because there are limited resources, poor infrastructure and unemployment in the rural areas. In this way we are losing the present and future agriculturists in the state. Agriculture is an important tool which can stop the migration from rural areas towards the urban areas and can create the income and employment opportunities for the rural youths.
Youth is often the time when one starts to dream of the future, thinks of the path to take and boldly and aggressively set the life in motion. In many villages, to be a farmer is not a part of this dreamt future. What will then be the future of agriculture without the involvement of young farmers? If there is no farmer then there will not be food and life. It has been observed that the majority of rural youths are not attracted towards agriculture. We need to find out the initiatives being taken to encourage the youth to be in agriculture and need to give the recommendations for the youth to stay in this profession. India is said to be the youngest country in the world as it is having the highest number of youths in the world. The rural youths are often unemployed or work informally in unpaid or underpaid, low skilled and insecure. The lack of opportunities and decent jobs in the rural areas compel the youths to migrate to cities. For many decades, the rural youths in the state have been under-tapped and neglected by their communities, governments and international organizations and thus are unable to make full use of their energy and potentials in the agricultural sector. Sons and daughters of  the farmers in the state are often reluctant to go into farming due to various reasons. Many of those who continue to stay in the farming were often forced or did not have better options. This has resulted to ageing of the farming population.  The youth is the future of the state and the rural youth is the future of agriculture and rural industry. How can we then attract the youth to stay or work in the rural areas? Different kinds of policies and programmes are needed to be made by the government for their secure future and stay in agriculture and rural industry by their choice.
Agriculture provides the main source of income in the state. Engaging rural youths in agriculture has been prominent agenda of the Government recently as there is growing concern across the nation that rural youths have become disenchanted with agriculture. It is predicted by the UN that by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in the city and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people meaning that more young people than ever before are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in the rural areas. It is easier to understand why the number of young farmers is in decline. So, how do we can reignite the love of rural youths for farming when the trend  to live in cities and towns is increasing?
It has been observed though various consultations that the rural youths in the state are not attracted towards the agriculture. The rural youths think that agriculture is unglamorous, unprofitable, having less pride and dignity, low identity and back breaking. Farmers tell their children, “Do not be like me, just a lowly farmer.” “If you don’t study well, you will just end up here in farming”. Many school children dream to be doctors, engineers or lawyers, but seldom like to be farmers. Farmers are always ranked low in the society and are defined as uneducated or uncivilized. Farmers are generally poor.  They do not gain enough income from agriculture and are far from meeting their family, even personal, needs. Decreasing incomes due to increasing cost of agricultural inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, low prices of produce, lack of control over the markets and high risks in agriculture brought by unpredictable weather conditions and price fluctuations keep the youths away from agriculture.
Former Prime Minister of India,  Lal Bahadur Shastri gave the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” to stress that Jawans and Kisans are the two pillars of the nation. The future belongs to the nations with grains and not guns. For young people to take to agriculture, farming must be both intellectually satisfying and economically rewarding. This will call for a technological and managerial upgradation of farm operations. We need to persuade the rural youths to stay in the villages and adopt agriculture as a profession. We can attract the rural youths in agriculture by the appropriate land use policies, technologies , market linkages, by enlarging the scope for the growth of agro-processing, agro industries, agribusiness and establish “Farm to Home” chain in production ,processing and marketing. The Government of India has also launched a programme for the agricultural graduates to start agri-clinic and agri-business centres. Agri-clinics provide the services needed during the production phase of farming while the agri-business centre will cater the needs of the farm families during the post-harvest phase of agriculture. Thus, the farmers can be assisted in the entire crop cycle starting from sowing and extending up to value addition and marketing.
In order to ensure the food security in the country there is dire need to attract the rural youths in agriculture. They should be encouraged to take up agriculture and allied sectors enterprises for sustainable income and gainful employment. They should be trained for the capital intensive activities like processing; value addition and marketing .They should be guided to have links with different institutions and stakeholders for convergence of opportunities available under various schemes and programmes for the sustainable development. Krishi Vigyan Kendras(KVKs) established in the different districts of the state are developing the skills on different entrepreneurial activities such as mushroom, poultry, goatry, vermicomposting, floriculture, apiary, seed production, dairy farming etc. Various demonstration units on agriculture and allied sectors established in the KVK are also helpful to train the rural youths. The agriculture and allied sectors model units are also established by the KVKs in the villages to attract the rural youths in agriculture. Skill development in agriculture will help the rural youths to improve their confidence, to pursue farming as a profession, generate additional income and employment opportunities.