a magazine on ecological agriculture
a one stop treasure of practical field experiences

Graduating to farming

While farming has become unremunerative, more so with the disturbing climate change conditions, it is imperative that the government support be extended to motivate young farmers to stay in farming. This is crucial not only for creating rural employment but also for providing the food security of growing population of this country.

Vinayaka Rao on his naturally mulched farm

Agriculture is no more a young man’s business” is an often repeated statement given at various seminars in the country. About two decades ago our planners were thinking about how to bring farmers out of his field. But the whole farming scenario has changed with the advent of globalization and liberalization polices undertaken by the successive governments since 1991. Opportunities to earn a better livelihood elsewhere is luring youth from villages to migrate to towns and cities in large numbers.

When I left the portals of university of agriculture sciences, GKVK Bangalore in 1991, I was dreaming about a white collar job in a multinational company befitting my qualification. I got a reasonably good job in a plantation company near Nasik in Maharastra. Nasik is a rich horticulture belt where in fruits, vegetables, and onion are being cultivated very profitably. My interaction with farmers around our estate slowly kindled my interest to do something in this field on my own. However, I had to shift to Bangalore head office in 1995. My stay at Bangalore for 5 years brought aversion to city life.

The ills of urban life forced me to think of resigning my well off job and settle at my native place. It was a hard decision to make and convince my near and dear ones. But I had made up my mind that my future lay in my roots. Now after a decade of practicing what I had envisaged long ago has given me so much of satisfaction that in spite of economic setback, I hardly wish to shift to greener pastures of city life.

Farmers in Brahmana Manchale village in Sagar taluk, Shimoga district were facing severe labour problem and incurring high costs for transporting FYM from households to areca plantations. In such situation, about 20 young farmers formed a Raithakuta which is led by Mr. Subbanna. They approached AGM, NABARD, Shimoga branch, who after making a field promised to part -finance the project. He also facilitated the group to access the balance amount as a loan from the local Pragathi Grameena Bank. Now, the farmers are also enthusiastically contributing 20% of the project cost.

Youngsters by and large are being attracted to the so-called lifestyle trends in cities like fast cars, flats, weekend parties etc. Their life has become so much of a routine that they struggle for 14 to 18 years everyday for five days a week and try to spend as much possible later. If the trend has to be altered, the Government has to take concrete steps to encourage young farmers to involve in agriculture.

Presently, climatic fluctuations, reduced fertility of soil, inadequate irrigation facilities, costly agri-inputs, non-availability of labourers, insufficient market information, un-remunerative price pattern and huge gap in technical knowledge transfer is forcing the cultivators to look agriculture as a mere tool to survive rather than take it up as a profitable venture. Besides, the unstable market is a curse wherein farmers hardly get a remunerative price for the small marketable surpluses.

Moreover, a few traders or transporters try to manipulate the demand and supply chain mechanism. In India, farming is the only sector where price of a commodity is not decided by the producer, while in every other sector it is so. A little bit of market support from the government may go a long way in making it remunerative. For instance, in Karnataka, support price for maize alone has worked as a wonderful incentive for farmers because they are assured of guaranteed returns and fixed market in APMC yards. If the same concept is extended for all other agriculture and related goods, then farming as an occupation may survive.

Farming is the only sector where price of a commodity is not decided by the producer

Efforts are also needed on part of the numerous NGO’s and agriinput producers to help young farmers to carry on this profession. Trainings and motivational courses on successful farmers field is one such method where in on field demonstrations can stir many to adopt better practices to raise crops. NABARD, the premier agriculture banking institution in the country is giving a lot of encouragement by enabling farmers to form Raithakutas and provide finance through local banks. (see box)

There are several models like the one described. These models should inspire the young farmers to stay in farming. There is no other profession as holier than this because without the farmer and his land no one will survive on this earth. Everybody in big cities and towns will be starved to death if the farmers decide to stop supply of all agriculture produce for a fortnight.

B R Vinayaka Rao
Sagar Taluk, Shimoga District, Belur – 577401, Karnataka