Sunday, 29 January, 2023

Develop Agriculture By Retaining Youths

Balaram Chaulagain

Nepal’s agricultural sector cannot improve without retaining youths aged between 21 and 35 years within the country. They tend to fly overseas as migrant workers due to lack of adequate employment opportunities in the country.
At a time when more than four million energetic youths of Nepal have already left the country, the government needs to work to bring them back and provide them with job opportunities. The country’s present condition the agriculture sector seems to be poorer than it was during the Panchayat period.
Until now, modern farming system has not been introduced in Nepal. In the absence of such a system, the poor farmers are forced to change their age-old traditional occupation. Besides, fragmentation of the agricultural land is also a big challenge to the development of this sector. About 66 per cent of the country’s population in the country is involved in agriculture while the number of such people in developed nations stands at just five per cent or less. Modern technologies along with irrigation facilities are basic requirements for the development of this sector.
Many rural households in the country may not have enough money to spend and food stuffs to eat for living in the near future. The cause behind this is that more than 75 per cent of youths residing across the country have gone abroad for jobs. Our agriculture system is still traditional and we have not been able to switch the mass agriculture production through modern technology. While government declares the agenda of poverty reduction through the promotion of new technology and opportunities to reduce agricultural products from abroad, youths from every part of the nation still prefer working abroad.
Unless we retain agricultural workers within the country, the idea of reducing poverty through boosting the agriculture sector will remain a far cry. Among different varieties of food grains, rice is major contributor to the country's GDP with 20 per cent out of 27.5 per cent of total contribution of this sector. The annual production of edible crops, including rice, maize, wheat, etc., comprises over 10 million tons, but the ratio of rice is more than 75 per cent. In the past, Nepal used to export rice to other countries. But now time has changed due to shortage of human resources to cultivate paddy.
It is necessary to reform the current education system and modernise the age–old agricultural system. In the long run, it will create job opportunities and bring down the rate of poverty in Nepal.
The relation between workers and employers must be harmonious so as to boost the productivity of agricultural sector. Moreover, the agony being faced by farmers' regarding access to market is another problem. Exploration of labour and employment for strengthening agricultural workers-employers relationships, attracting youths towards the field of agriculture in strengthening the country's economy is need of the hour.
The irrigation facility in Nepal has been limited only in 25 per cent of land throughout the year. The unskilled and low level of manpower available in the field of agriculture does not help reduce poverty. Insufficient and low productivity of agriculture in rural Nepal will aggravate the farmers' predicament. It is needless to say that Nepal is a land of diverse and rugged geographical features. Besides, there are more factors that are responsible for keeping people under the clutch of poverty.
The scarcity of farm workers has put a great deal of arable field barren in Nepal. Such alarming situation was first identified a decade ago. It is known to all that migration within and outside the country is a core factor in developing poverty. Migration remains very much the exception rather than the rule of human behaviour. An overwhelming number of people do not want to migrate to another place unless they are forced to abandon their native place. The large difference in income between countries continue to motivate individuals to escape poverty through migration. Many privileged and influential countries attract more and more people from low income countries with handsome jobs to maintain their livelihood.
So long as we fail to retain our youths in Nepal, we can't produce enough food products to feed our people. For this, a pragmatic plan of action must be formulated to attract farmers by giving suitable opportunities in agricultural field. Unemployment is the basic reason why most of the rural people are poor. Many of our countrymen do not have a proper job except agriculture to sustain their families. As such, they remain poor and can't repay the loans taken by them to manage their livelihood.
Time has changed now and most of people residing across the length and breadth of country do not want to continue the age old traditional way of farming. In this regard the government must come up with new idea to lure more people in this field. Nepal is blessed with plenty of agricultural field, but we are unable to cultivate them properly. The rural areas have ample sources of water to irrigate the paddy field and vegetable farming. The government should play the role of catalyst to enhance the agricultural productivity by motivating the rural youths with necessary items like modern agricultural equipment, fertilizers and other inputs.

(A retired public health officer, Chaulagain writes on health and development issues.)