The three basic needs of human being are food, cloth and shelter without which sustainable and peaceful life is not possible in the earth. Regarding food, we not only require in sufficient quantity but it should be available in adequate quantity and quality at all times in a very easy, accessible and affordable manner. Otherwise we cannot expect inclusive growth, expect healthy mankind, and ultimately we cannot expect desired and sustainable manner of growth and development in our socio-economic and political arena.
Because of low production, productivity and returns, especially the very low producer share in consumer rupees in marketing agricultural produces or output, our younger generation already reveals its unwillingness to adopt agriculture as a means of livelihood in life. If that situation sustains for a longer period, it will create a great problem in the food security aspect of human society.
The productivity of agricultural crops is also declining due to factors like lack of adequate infrastructural facilities, small and scattered type of land holding, indiscriminate and imbalanced use of chemical fertilizers, non-availability of timely and quality agricultural inputs at affordable cost, improper method of crop cultivation, maintenance and management, non-availability of adequate finance for agriculture at easy terms and lower rate of interest etc. Moreover, due to the non-availability of remunerative price of agricultural produce, income from agricultural sector is becoming very low or a loss-making venture, and due to this our farmers cannot sustain a decent standard of living in their life. Even many of them have to take to the path of suicide due to the loss-making nature of agricultural occupation. And due to this, our farmers and their offspring express their unwillingness to opt for agriculture as their livelihood.
This phenomenon is reflected in many parts of the world, particularly in developing and underdeveloped countries. India is predominantly an agrarian country where 60-70 per cent of its population is dependent on agriculture for employment. According to the National Sample Survey Organization, 45 per cent of the farmers interviewed have desired to quit farming.
One of the major challenges confronting agriculture in India today is that the children of farmers, by and large, are not interested in their familial occupation. To address this challenge and make agriculture attractive to the youth, profit from agricultural occupation must be sufficient enough to our farming community so that they can lead and sustain a very decent standard of living. For this, the net return from per unit area of crop cultivation activities must be sufficiently high, and for this, producer share in consumer rupee must be adequate enough, making agriculture one of the most profitable income generating activities in the field of livelihood aspect of our farming community.
This means there should not be vast difference between the price received by our farmers and the price paid by our consumers for an equivalent quantity of an agricultural produce at a particular point of time. There must be stability in the marketing system, and the marketing system should be efficient enough for both the producer and other elements involved in the system. Otherwise the number of youngsters attached to or interested in agriculture as their main source of income or livelihood will go on decreasing year after year at a very alarming rate, which will be a serious threat to the maintenance of food security for mankind.
That is why the renowned agricultural scientist Prof M S Swaminthan, while launching a very special programme called Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture (ARYA) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi said, "Unless agriculture is made remunerative and attractive, it would be difficult to retain youth in the field. Unless productivity or income is increased, farming cannot become an attractive venture for the young".
In fact, ARYA is considered as the most appropriate approach for the exploitation of talent of the rural youth through their effective skill development in various agriculture and allied field such as apiary, mushroom, seed processing, soil testing, poultry, dairy, goatry, carp-hatchery, vermi-compost etc, to attract our rural youth to undertake agriculture as the important and major source of livelihood with remunerative income and standard of living capable of receiving due respect in the society.
After all, very immediate and effective efforts should be made in order to implement all public and private plans and programmes with a very active and collective encouragement, support, participation and cooperation in due space and time to attract and retain our potential younger generation in agricultural occupation where there are regards, reputation and remuneration for them. There is no other way except by converting agriculture or crop cultivation into a very remunerative, respectable potential occupation on a very sustainable basis for which the mentality or mindset of all the sections of people must get changed immediately in right direction.
We must be able to create successful agripreneur or farmers in good numbers as ideal social transformers in agriculture and allied sector. All the required infrastructural facilities, skills and knowledge must be available in right quantity and quality at the right time and place in a very accessible and affordable manner. In this regards, the Panchasheel proposed by Prof MS Swaminthan for young farmers may be very helpful if executed scientifically and effectively in due space and time. These are: (i) attention to soil health care, management and enhancement; (ii) harvesting rain water and utilizing it effectively to get more crop per drop; (iii) technology and inputs particularly in the fields of biotechnology, space technology, information technology, renewable energy technology and nuclear technology; (iv) credit and insurance; and (v) value addition to primary products and assured and remunerative marketing.
Last not the least, the media can play a very effective and deciding role by motivating, sensitizing and encouraging our younger generation through various modes of publication and dissemination of successful players in the agricultural sector and also by creating a pressure group for our policy makers and policy implementers to undertake suitable actions at the right time and place for the greater interest of human life for them to lead a sustainable life with dignity, development, peace and tranquility. So, let us start together, cooperate together, work together.
(The writer is a subject matter specialist in agricultural economics at Assam Agriculture University and can be reached at email@example.com)