Through an innovative pilot programme on training rural youth in sustainable agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture Development in Nepal succeeded in addressing two major issues – food security and rural employment. Inspired by the success of the pilot initiative, the government is all set to scale up this programme widely across the nation.
Agriculture is no longer seen as a remunerative livelihood option in Nepal. Also, owing to lack of supportive extension system, farmers, particularly the youth, are migrating to towns and cities seeking non-agricultural opportunities. The aged and the women who are left behind are finding it difficult to manage the farms on their own.To encourage youth in agriculture, the Regional Agriculture Training Center (RATC) at Pokhara under the Ministry of Agricultural Development, in collaboration with District Agriculture Development Office (DADO), launched a Self Employment Project in Agriculture. The Village Agricultural Workers (VAW) training project was launched in the year 2010 with an objective of encouraging rural youth to become agri-preneurs and also promote improved and sustainable practices to others.
Village Agricultural Workers Training Project
Twenty seven rural youth (15 male and 12 female) from 27 different Village Development Committees (VDCs) of Kaski district in Nepal, were selected for this programme.
The training package included 6 different modules. The training program comprised a combination of different methodologies including classroom presentation and discussion providing reading materials, group work, case studies, project work, brain storming and field visits. For making this project work, farmer’s real problems were understood and more participatory techniques were opted. A curriculum was developed with the involvement of agricultural scientists, agricultural officers and other stakeholders from various related organizations. Not only the general expertise gained by the trainers was included in the course, but also importance was given to the local and the specific problems encountered by the farmers in their localities.
The training program was delivered in Nepali language. Each day consisted of four sessions with each of one and half hours. Group exercises were done for the majority of the problems.
The training program lasting for 51 days provided the participants an in-depth insight into the agricultural techniques of crop production, insect and disease management, post-harvest handling and market management at the training center.
Including youth in agricultural development
After the completion of the training program, the trained youth were placed in VDC office in their respective villages as Agricultural Volunteers with a monthly income of Rs. 4500 for the first year. They receive this for serving the VDC office for a maximum of 10 days in a month. They have been participating in agricultural program planning, organizing and handling of village level meetings, acting as a bridge between the District Agriculture Development Office and farmers. They are also involved in monitoring the program and project implementation. In some places, they also participated in peace building activities by using conflict management techniques, learnt during their training program.
Several advantages were found in mobilizing the local youth farmers rather than a junior agricultural technician from outside. As these youth were familiar with the locality, they could easily and quickly identify the problems of farmers. Villagers too accepted their words, ideas and techniques more easily. These young leaders served as a contact point for different stakeholders. As agricultural entrepreneurs, they served as a model for other villagers to follow them and adapt the new and sustainable farming technologies. This training delivered a positive and optimistic view towards agriculture as a livelihood option and agri-preneurship among the rural youth.
Ms. Sunita Acharya, about 27 year old, after completing the 51 days training program, has been teaching other farmers in her village about offseason vegetable production technologies, improved compost preparation, sustainable insect and pest management using local botanicals. Besides, she also became an agri-preneur by setting up 10 plastic tunnels for offseason vegetable production. Presently Sunita earns around Rs. 60,000 from each tunnel, every season.
Mr. Khimlal Subedi, one of the participants of VAW training program has now become a successful entrepreneur. Integrated Pest management options and techniques dealt in the training program inspired him to open an Agrovet at Chhorepatan in Kaski district. Through his center he sells agricultural inputs while providing technical advice.
Factors for success
Different organizations under various ministries have been implementing various self employment training programs for the youth. RATC too, after its establishment in the year 1968 by the German Government, has been conducting many training programs on youth self employment. However, none of them were as successful as this VAW programme. Some of the factors responsible for this success are:
– An agreement with respective VDC was in place to absorb the rural youth after the successful completion of the training program. Therefore the youth found avenues to use their training immediately after the training programme.
– Knowledge and skills related to the formation of enterprises, business planning and enterprise development helps them in becoming a successful agri-preneur. This training had equipped the youth with such skills.
– The customized curriculum based on real problems, designed for this training program equipped them with strong technical backup and confidence to run their enterprise and solve village level farm problems.
– Feedback on technical knowledge on a regular basis enhanced trainees knowledge on the subjects.
This project was a very small attempt by RATC, Pokhara in collaboration with District Agriculture Development Office, Kaski district. This year, Government of Nepal, as prioritized through the program of National Planning Commission, Nepal announced to extend this programme throughout the country. SACRED-Nepal, a newly established national level NGO, aims to assist the government in preparing VAW in each VDC throughout the nation for the coming five years with the lessons learnt from the RATC’s project’s design and its successful outputs.
This initiative is expected to promote sustainable farming technologies option on a wider scale which will significantly boost the agricultural productivity of the country. It is also expected to tackle unemployment while ensuring nation’s food sovereignty and economic prosperity.
Dipendra Pokharel and Resona Simkhada
Agricultural Training Officer, Technical Coordinator of the Project.
Regional Agricultural Training Center,
Pokhara-5, Dumribot, Kaski.
Sustainable Agricultural Research and Development Center (SACRED-Nepal),
Pokhara-5, Malepatan, Kaski.