Agriculture is among the oldest and most significant industries on this planet. Sri Lanka—an agrarian nation—has an agricultural historical past spanning over 2,500 years. It has been an vital driver of poverty discount within the nation and contributes about 8.4% to the nation’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP).
Over the years, the trade has contended with a slew of challenges, akin to local weather change resulted modifications in climate patterns, droughts, floods and lack of biodiversity, soil erosion, shrinking feminine participation within the agricultural worth chains attributable to gender inequalities, low revenue for farmers, low youth participation within the agricultural sector and the COVID-19 restrictions since March 2020.
In order to bolster the agriculture trade, these points must be addressed. Yet one, specifically, stands out.
Where Are The Youth?
The saying “the youth are our future” rings true in each means. For agriculture, an trade dealing with a downward pattern in labour drive participation, youth might present the answer, not solely by way of labour but additionally bridging the agriculture trade with the best expertise and innovation for its sustainability within the modern-day.
Without youth participation, the trade’s probabilities to flourish are slim. This raises two important questions:
- Why aren’t extra youth actively concerned in agriculture?
- How can we enhance youth engagement within the subject?
Why Aren’t More Youth Actively Involved In Agriculture?
It is assumed to have three contributors for the shortage of youth participation in agriculture:
- Low ranges of social safety, social recognition, pay and total industrial sustainability; 2. The lack of expertise and innovation utilised in Sri Lanka’s agri-sector;
- A lower within the industrial worth of the Sri Lankan agricultural trade.
How Do We Increase Youth Engagement In The Field?
To reply this, we should first think about the totally different areas of concern.
The first space of concern is the financial affect. COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Sri Lanka’s economic system contracting by 3.6% in 2020 — it’s the worst annual progress efficiency on report. Job loss and diminished earnings hit new ranges, with the poverty fee projected to have elevated from 9.2% in 2019 to 11.7% in 2020. In 2020, the whole variety of employed individuals in Sri Lanka stood at about 8.2 million, of which about 26.5% had been employed or engaged in agriculture.
A majority of this inhabitants are located within the rural and property sectors, with the agricultural areas being dwelling to about 80% of the whole inhabitants and the biggest contributor to agriculture. This was beforehand highlighted within the 2019 Sri Lanka Labour Force survey via its cross-district view of the employed inhabitants distribution. The figures had vital variations within the share of agriculture employment, with a mere 1.6% in Colombo engaged in agriculture versus a major 55.4% in Badulla, 51.2% in Nuwara Eliya, and 48.6% in Monaragala. About 1.65 million smallholder farmers function on lower than two hectares but contribute roughly 80% of the whole annual meals manufacturing. Meanwhile, practically half of all farmers dwelling alongside or beneath the poverty line are smallholder farmers.
The second space of concern is gender disparity in agriculture. The exclusion of girls and ladies in agriculture, be it attributable to an absence of alternatives, companies, and specialised schooling, societal attitudes, or lack of push by establishments concerned in agriculture, has had a serious affect on the sphere. The Department of Census and Statistics acknowledged that the labour drive participation of girls stood at 34.3% in 2020. Out of which, 27.7% labored within the agriculture sector.
The feminine casual staff within the agriculture sector usually are not mirrored in these numbers, thus their contribution to the trade and the nation’s economic system goes largely unacknowledged. The majority of the ladies within the agriculture sector practised subsistence agriculture, whereas males engaged in paddy farming and produced bigger volumes of contemporary produce of upper worth on the market at markets. Further, girls and ladies proceed to face challenges when coming into into agriculture. These challenges embody, amongst different, issue to safe loans, lack of entry to and management of sources, lack of kid care assist and discrimination in what’s incorrectly seen as a male-dominated trade.
The third space of concern is the shortage of openness to agritech in Sri Lanka, whereas closely counting on previous strategies and traditions of agriculture to play a serious position. This lack of expertise and innovativeness is contributing to protecting the youth away from getting concerned within the trade.
The refusal by or lack of ability of older generations to include agritech of their processes additionally stagnates the expansion of agriculture within the face of contemporary challenges. Tying in with the gradual adoption of agritech within the nation is inaccessibility, each by way of buying and utilising the expertise. Tech know-how stays low and the digital divide stays vast amongst the agricultural and property sectors versus the city sector.
The Way Forward
Agriculture has by no means been extra universally vital than it’s right now, as meals shortage threatens the globe within the midst of a burgeoning inhabitants. The profitability of agriculture is being mirrored via the successes of nations around the globe. This is principally because of the merging of conventional and fashionable agri-processes, pushed by expertise, that’s boosting yields, reducing man-hours, contributing to more healthy crops, and lowering prices and losses in the long term. From harvest automation to drones, blockchain expertise, gene enhancing, city agriculture, and vertical farming, agritech is a direct reply to the world’s points with poverty amongst farmers, farmable land shortages, a fast-rising inhabitants, and quickly altering shopper preferences.
Promoting agricultural entrepreneurship amongst youth may vastly enhance agritech adoption in Sri Lanka, which has been a driving drive behind the trade’s growth internationally. A research titled ‘Factors Influencing the Youths’ Interest in Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka’ discovered that “youth aspirations towards agricultural entrepreneurship were strongly influenced positively by attitude, acceptance, parental satisfaction on agricultural income, parental income, agri-machine ownership, land ownership, expected government support and credit facilities while parental education showed a negative effect”.
Therefore, step one needs to be to advertise agriculture as a viable profession prospect for youth, beginning with the formal schooling system. A higher understanding of the significance of agriculture, the expertise concerned in it, and the plethora of alternatives offered by it may assist extra youth think about agriculture as one thing they may excel in.
Another important step can be to have the non-public sector concerned in bettering entry to agritech, schooling, upskilling, and monetary assist. Apprenticeships, internships, and on-the-job coaching in agriculture may assist enhance youth’s engagement considerably whereas offering them grounds to determine a profession within the subject.
Helping smallholders sustainably enhance their productiveness is vital in making certain the expansion of agricultural output and stability. This requires a multi-pronged method that focuses on lowering the degradation of pure sources, incorporating agritech, and linking city and rural progress. Empowering rural men and women by serving to them scale up worth chain growth may additionally assist them connect with markets higher.
In phrases of Government assist, agricultural Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) can utilise a spread of particular mission loans, geared toward aiding MSMEs to obtain the funding they require to launch or enhance their initiatives.
Additionally, the nation can enhance the variety of girls and ladies collaborating in agriculture by enacting gender-responsive insurance policies and budgeting methods. Women’s Empowerment Specialist Vigitha Renganathan mentioned: “Many women in Sri Lanka are engaged in agriculture, but these women do not get due recognition. However, recently, many women and youth have become producers, and are interested in learning to integrate new technologies for better harvests and income.”
She additional added, “The European Union-Funded Enhancing Gender-Inclusive Socio-Economic Development Project (EGSD) that is being implemented through Oxfam, Save the Children and Leads in Sri Lanka, has identified many such farmer-producers, and has helped them strengthen their capacities to transform their ventures”.
Through this mission, Save the Children helps rural and property youth in Badulla, Monaragala and Nuwara Eliya districts to enhance their livelihoods by selling abilities coaching and employment matched with labour market calls for. This is finished by linking market-responsive technical and vocational schooling and coaching (TVET) programmes referring to seed potato, dairy, cinnamon and cocoa worth chains.
By growing educated youth looking for employment within the agriculture sector, the TVET programmes are anticipated to play a significant position within the revival of the agriculture trade and the economic system within the three districts. The mission significantly targets adolescents who dropped out of faculty early and are already of employable age and the massive pool of unemployed youth.
Similar to the EGSD mission, varied public sector and personal sector sponsored initiatives have begun over time to empower girls and ladies in agriculture, particularly these within the rural communities, creating a significant pathway to complement their livelihoods and to degree their enjoying subject in a perceivably male dominant trade.
Numerous public-private partnerships have contributed to constructing assist techniques for younger rural female and male entrepreneurs and workers within the agricultural sector to assist them navigate an more and more convoluted enterprise sphere and excel of their endeavours.
Thanks to those ongoing efforts by governmental businesses, NGOs and Private Sector Actors, it has develop into simpler than ever earlier than for youth to enter the agriculture trade and to construct an enduring profession via it.
As common mindsets on agriculture change, extra youth are starting to understand the potential agriculture holds, and a brand new future is being written for the trade. While there’s nonetheless a protracted method to go to make the agriculture trade interesting to the fashionable day youth, Sri Lanka is on the best path in direction of ushering within the New Age of Agriculture that can show useful for its economic system and its residents, with the youth of Sri Lanka main the way in which.