Why are Indian youth averse to taking up agriculture despite knowing of ways to succeed? Has the role of women in agriculture, and the drudgery associated with it, changed owing to advances in mechanization? These and many other questions pertaining to the role of agriculture in rural livelihoods are being probed by a team of researchers in India’s Telangana state for over a year. More recently, farmers were engaged as a group to deliberate on these at ICRISAT.
The farmers were participating in a stakeholder workshop at ICRISAT which was held as a part of the TIGR2ESS program, an India-UK initiative which has brought together crop science, hydrology, social science and policy to transform India’s Green Revolution. As part of the Flagship Project 1 in the program, ‘Sustainable and Transformative Agrarian and Rural Trajectories’, social scientists of ICRISAT have been conducting focus group discussions and interviews with women, men and youth since April 2019 in Warangal (Rural) district of Telangana.
Farmer engagement in research reduces the gap between science and policy. It also helps prioritize and deep-dive into more research that policies may need for support, while corroborating other field research activities through data validation. Also, the credibility and acceptability of a study hinges on farmer participation. Farmer engagement can help contextualize observations, like the implications of the efforts to mechanize farms, and in turn, have a bearing on future policies. Further, involving farmers in research discussions can speed up the research process and reduce the transaction cost to carry out further field research.
India’s farmer population is ageing without healthy signs of taking over by a younger workforce. The elderly in agrarian households do not see agriculture as a viable livelihood option for their children, while the young are averse to venture into it given the risks associated and the perceptions about farming as an occupation, which are deeply entrenched.
“We want our children to be well educated and have a secure job. It is fine even if they have a petty business in the corner of a city but we do not want them to do agriculture,” said Satya Narayan, a smallholding farmer from Neerukulla village.
“Earlier, agriculture and agricultural land that one possessed carried weight, but now educational qualifications and the type of job a male does is considered when matchmaking efforts are undertaken. Therefore, youth do not want to come to agriculture as it is not seen as attractive in society,” another farmer, Narasimha Reddy, said.
Though it is known that migration to cities may not be the best alternative, the prospects of better education and a job providing regular income motivates rural youth to migrate to urban locales. This reduces the workforce in rural areas, setting off a cascade of socio-economic consequences.
However, the youth are also aware of what it takes to make agriculture alluring. They cite the need for training and information about new varieties, soil health and market information. Handling farm machinery is seen as a profitable venture and the youth seek training and support for such enterprises in Warangal (R) district. They also aspire for financial support in setting up poultry and fish farms, in addition to robust support prices for the crops they cultivate.
Nearly all participants in the group agreed that women’s role in agriculture is decreasing in recent years due to arrival of machines to do jobs such as harvesting of paddy, weeding, spraying etc., in intensive crop production areas like Warangal (R). However, women are working just as much as they did before, even if not necessarily on the farm. Their socialization is restricted to interactions within self-help groups or during meetings organized for women.
The farmers also expressed that field exposure visits to innovative farms, research institutes etc. were absolutely necessary. Training on good agricultural practices for region-specific major crops was sought even as they appreciated a practice manual in local language. Engagement of farmers in research and exposure to research institutes can reduce the incidence of farmers being deceived by fake inputs (mainly seeds and fertilizer) suppliers in the rural area, as fake seeds and fertilizers are among the main reasons why farmers face losses.
About the authors
Markets, Institutions, Nutrition & Diversity
Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program
Dr Ravi Nandi
Associate Scientist (Agricultural Economics),
Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program