With an expected rise in global population to around 8.0 billion by 2025 on one hand and the ageing agriculture profession coupled with waning interest of youth on the other, is a serious concern today as to who will feed the world tomorrow and how we will achieve and meet the targets of sustainable development goals (SDGs). In this context, the role of youth in accelerating agricultural growth cannot be underestimated. In fact, those nations have progressed much faster where youth has been motivated and involved in creative, secondary and specialty agriculture – supported well by an enabling policy environment.
India presently has the largest population of youth (356 million between 10-24 years) in the world (UN Report, 2014), even larger than China (269 million). This obviously reflects a bright future provided the greater percentage of those living in rural areas (around 200 million), are motivated and attracted professionally to agriculture and allied fields. On the contrary, at present hardly 5 percent of the rural youth is getting engaged in agriculture.
In this context, a Regional Conference on “Motivating and Attracting Youth in Agriculture” is being organized during 30-31 August 2018 at NAAS Complex, New Delhi by the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), Skill India, Agriculture Skill Council of India (ASCI), Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD),National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). The Conference would provide an opportunity to all stakeholders to interact and discuss various options and avenues for not only attracting youth to agriculture but even motivating them towards entrepreneurship in agriculture and allied fields. On the inaugural day on 30 August, 2018, more than 120 participants including farmers from various states, senior research, development and policy related officials/managers from national and regional organizations, NGOs, the private sector, education and training institutions, and other members of civil society participated to discuss ways to motivate and attract youth to agriculture (MAYA). The regional conference has attracted participants from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Dr. AK Singh, DDG (Extension), ICAR welcomed the participants and mentioned that rural youth is running towards urban areas thereby putting tremendous pressure on the existing urban resources. Therefore, there is a need to create employment opportunities for the youth in rural areas in agriculture.
The conference was inaugurated by Dr. T Mohapatra, Secretary DARE & DG, ICAR and mentioned that we need to attract youth in agriculture by providing them lucrative alternatives. He also posed a question as to what percent of youth need to be involved in agriculture, analyze their aspirations and develop a roadmap for the country and region. He suggested to create a “Mission for Youth in Agriculture” and “Regional Platform for Youth in Agriculture” including neighboring countries as partners.
Dr. MS Swaminathan, the father of the green revolution in India addressed online and he informed that youth have the potential to revolutionize agriculture in India and the region.
Dr. Ravi Kheterpal, Executive Secretary, APAARI mentioned that youth have aspirations and they want to get involved in glamorous jobs. If such jobs are created in agriculture, it will bring revolution.
Dr. RS Paroda, Former Secretary DARE & DG, ICAR and currently Chairman, TAAS desired mainstreaming youth in agriculture, Youth wants to play role in technology transfer and make India a self-reliant country. Youth need to be trained as an employer than the employment seeker. The farmers in India need one stop solution for all their problems like a multispeciality hospital and we need to have a policy in agriculture too.
Five technical sessions have been planned during the conference on Current initiatives on youth empowerment, initiatives on youth empowerment in South Asia, motivating youth for entrepreneurship, scaling innovation and successful business models followed by a panel discussion on enabling policies on MAYA. The outcome of the conference is expected to better understand the role of youth for sustainable agricultural development and improved livelihood in the region. Successful entrepreneurship models will be identified to catalyze youth to adopt innovative ways for sustainable agriculture and improved livelihoods. The role of youth will be defined for outscaling innovations through needed linkages and partnerships. The conference would also provide policy guidelines to reorient, motivate and attract youth in agriculture. Also, a regional coalition “Framework for Action by Youth” for knowledge sharing and mutual learning will be established.