It took no less than the Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu to laud the latest Telugu flick Maharshi-which is based on agriculture. The protagonist- Mahesh Babu, an upward-mobile youth chucks his job, high-flying lifestyle and embraces farming. Agriculture, it seems is in the news, here, there and everywhere.
In this general election year, political parties of every hue have dished out sops for farmers. Not a single year goes by without the whole nation waiting eagerly to hear from the MET department on the arrival of monsoon as even to this day, India largely depends on a good rainfall for a good economy.
For a population of 130 crores and counting, a mere lakh graduating in agri-sciences is a cause for worry say experts
Though the intelligentsia and the common man acknowledge the role of agriculture and its importance, parents, students and all who matter have still not warmed up to the idea of pursuing agricultural sciences as a career.
According to the All India Studies on Higher Education (AISHE) 2017-18 report, the total number of Agri-students passing out with an undergrad degree is less than 1 lakh and less than 1% of the Agricultural GDP in India is spent on research.
Only 21.1% of students are opting for PhD in Agriculture and Allied courses. The 5,000 plus PhD students in 67 agricultural universities tells the story of the lack of interest among the young population.
60% of the Indian population depends on agriculture for livelihood while contribution to the national GDP through agriculture is only 16-17%. Three-quarters of Indian families depend on rural incomes including allied sectors such as cattle breeding and fishing.
While agriculture when pursued with the right technology and know-how reaps benefits, the youth are attracted to IT & enabled Services. On an average, close to 13 to 15 lakh engineers graduate every year in India as opposed to just a lakh in agriculture. That in a nutshell tells the story. For a population of 130 crore and counting, a mere lakh graduating in agri-sciences is a cause for worry say experts.
What is more, according to an Indian Council of Agriculture Research 2018 report the cropping intensity registered an increase of only 25% since independence coupled with an unprecedented degradation of land (107 million ha) and groundwater resource.
The Indian economic survey 2018 predicts percentage of agriculture workers to drop by 25.7 percent by 2050.
On the government part, schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil health cards, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana and National Agriculture Market (eNAM). Minimum Support Price (MSP) promise a helping hand to farmers and the Prime Minister assured that farmers income to double by 2022.
While incentives to farmers are seen as a welcome move, the greater long term challenges include market linkages, improvement in logistics and storage facilities. Ill-informed on markets and marketing, ill-equipped to manage risk, burdened with credit & debts and is dependent on traders to reach the buyers.
The share of agriculture in the Indian economy is progressively declining. A slump in agriculture sector reflects rise in poverty and decrease in national food security. World Bank report states- “India’s food security depends on producing cereal crops, as well as increasing its production of fruits, vegetables and milk to meet the demands of a growing population with rising incomes.” To achieve this, a productive, competitive, and diversified agricultural sector will need to emerge at a steadily growing pace.
However, there are barriers. While there are networks like YPARD (Young Professionals for Agriculture Development) spread in different parts of the world, their connectivity is not dense enough to bring impact in a widely populated country like India.
The scenario in terms of agripreneurship is not very positive either. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) India Report 2016-17, 11 per cent of India’s adult population is engaged in “total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA). Of those engaged in TEA, 12.1 % of them are in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and transportation. The figures show a sharp decrease in early stage entrepreneurial activity in agriculture, which used to be previously at 42 per cent.
Despite the impediments, India has sufficient natural resources required to become a pro-farming country. Around 51% of India’s geographical area is already under cultivation as compared to 11% of the world average.
In addition, a digital revolution in terms of weather forecasts, time of sowing and the exact amount of fertilisers and pesticides to be used for each crop needs to be proffered for a farmer.
Experts at World Bank say agriculture is up to 4 times more effective than any other sector in reducing poverty. Agricultural universities in India are among the best and India has been one of the first countries to adopt satellite technology – precision farming and adoption of geospatial technology.
India is racing ahead in IT, space technology and allied sectors and is touted as one of the fastest growing economy. If the prophesy is to come true that in the near future, India could be a world leader, it is imperative that students make a bee-line to agricultural universities.