One of the most important things I talk about in my book at length is the “grain drain” and the “ticking timebomb”. And I do want you to get alarmed about this as it is a bigger problem than most of us think. I am referring to the fact that the average age of the Indian farmer is about 50-55 years, and his children and grandchildren are least interested in farming. They are pursuing city life and a career outside the village. And frankly, I don’t blame them for it. This is why their family members are also not trying to make them continue the family farming “business”. But that is where the problem lies. In 10 to 15 years, the farmer who is currently cultivating his land will be close to retirement and we must start thinking of “who will run the farms” after that. Hence, I have devoted a lot of time to addressing these issues and looking at solutions. But before we do that, we need to understand the problems. What is the main reason for the youth not wanting to stick to farming? Outlining 8 of them as follows:
- too much hard work,
- too less visibility,
- not a path to riches,
- social stigma,
- fragmented land,
- the family already disengaged from agriculture,
- too much risk aversion, and
- lack of farming knowledge
I feel if we can address just a few of them – namely, a) reducing the drudgery, b) improving profitability and predictability of farming, c) educating them on the technical and commercial aspects of farming early on, a large part of the battle can be won. You may have deduced by now – but all of these can be achieved with just one tool – the adoption of agri-tech across the value chain of farming including of course in innovative ways of educating them. This tech-enabled farming will also carry much less of the social stigma which is also a key problem. It might have the reverse effect – of making a young tech-savvy farmer look very smart socially!
To be sure, this is a global phenomenon and governments over the world are grappling with the challenge of retaining and attracting the youth to farming. Some countries have seen more success than others, but they are all heading in that direction. In India also, the government has at least three programs that encourage this quite explicitly. MAAYA (Motivating And Attracting Youth to Agriculture), ARYA (Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture), AC-ABC (Agri Clinic - Agri-Business Centers) are a few of the key initiatives for the rural youth. Some ITIs are also running certain Agri related courses. It is also heartening to see organizations like FALI (Future Agriculture Leaders of India) – a private initiative, taking up the responsibility on themselves. It's just that given the size of India, it’s just not enough. And more needs to be done.
Our latest book ‘Agribusiness & Technology – Revolutionizing the Future of Farming’ goes deeper into this aspect as well as a host of other areas which can collectively revolutionize the future of farming!
The article has been authored by Sujit Sahgal, who is a financial market professional.