With the theme “Youth and Agriculture”, APAARI (Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions) and PARC (Pakistan Agriculture Research Council) organized the Regional Workshop to discuss the challenges and opportunities for youth engagement in agriculture on October 23-24 at Islamabad, Pakistan.
If youth issue is just one angle in the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development 2012 (GCARD2012) discussion, YOUTH is the whole focus in this Pakistan consultation. Both senior and young professionals, representing different stakeholders: policy makers, researchers, farmer associations, companies, young farmers and medias, participated to the discussion on youth involvement in modern agriculture. It was my honor to be supported by Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research and Development (YPARD) to present China’s perspective and I would like to share with YPARDians here.
China’s Agriculture in transition: new features
Based on the consecutive increasing of investment in agriculture, the national strategy and policy support, efficient rural institutional reform and S&T progress, China won great achievements in promoting comprehensive production capacity and ensuring national food security. The mode of agricultural development is transforming and new features emerge: agri-businesses, value chain and industrialization significantly developed; production tends to be large-scaled, mechanized and standardized; farm land consolidation accelerated and farmer cooperatives developed, food processing arising. These trends and features make agriculture a more market-oriented, technology and capital intensive, large scale and integrated, multifunctional and intelligent, and more attractive for innovative youth. Under this circumstance, there’re new patterns arising for youth participation in agriculture.
New patterns for youth participation in agriculture
Four stories I learned recently which reflects the new trends of youth participation in agriculture.
Large-scale production and cooperation
Mr. Zhang Yiwen, 34 years old, managed a maize cooperative of 1,500 mu; farmers who lent the land to Mr. Zhang can receive a fixed revenue for the land, and they can work in factories in nearby cities and towns. The lands is prepared, ploughed, planted and harvested by machines. The yield of Mr. Zhang’s plantation is 20 percent higher than the normal local yield. I learned this from the filed survey.
Specialized production and modern logistic
Mr. Chen Sheng, graduated from Peking University, dropped his job as a government officer to build a company to raise pigs. Now he has over 700 chain shops in Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. Market evaluation for his company reaches over US$4 billion. I learned this from internet.
Ecological agriculture and tourism
Mr. Luowei, who graduated from HEC Paris, an old business school of outstanding reputation in Europe and the world, dropped his job as a “white collar” in a French company with the salary 200,000CNY (33,000USD) and went back to his hometown a poor village in Hubei Province, South China, to plant blueberry. Conquered failure because of drought and other natural shocks, lack of infrastructure and other difficulties, he planted 500 mu ecological orchard and involved local farmers to join. The annual income of Luowei reaches 1,000,000CNY, five times of his former salary. He invites foreign experts to guide for the planting and sponsors famers to take the plane to receive training, which is beyond farmers’ imagination. Mr.Luo hopes that his orchard can become demonstrated ecological tour orchard to be the “Provence” in China. I learnt this from CCTV.
Community Support Agriculture (CSA)
Ms. Zhong Fang – she joined the Little Donkey Farm after she received two Ph.D degrees from Italy and China. The farm is a vegetable garden for Beijing Citizens, and it produces organic vegetables without chemical fertilizer, pesticide or any other chemical compound. Vegetables can be delivered directly to the citizens or the customers can go to the garden to pick whatever varieties they want. Ms. Zhong is now also working on promoting this type of agriculture production in other cities and she is well self-satisfied for her work. I learnt this from a YPARD China conference.
These above successful stories show a bright picture for youth in agriculture. But this is just a small part of the whole picture, and the reality is not so beautiful… As the Minister of (Ministry of Agriculture) MOA, Han Changfu indicated “Most of those migrate into cities are youth, and 84.5 percent never engaged in farming activities, 93.6 percent wants to live in cities…” There are some barriers for youth to engage in agriculture.
Constraints hinder youth engaging in agriculture
- The future agriculture will be market oriented which calls for agribusiness management capacity and entrepreneurship while there’s limited social atmosphere and policy to guide, support and intrigue starting business.
- The current education and training can’t enable the youth to meet the comprehensive and technical requirements for modern agriculture.
- The comparatively low income and historical misunderstanding of agriculture related career make the youth lack of interest in agricultural farming and research.
- The current land policy and lack of financial support makes difficult to operation modern large scale agriculture production.
- Indecent living conditions in rural area makes youth migrant into cities.
Then how to attract youth to stay in or return to agriculture? Based on the YPARD China discussion, an Integrated System was formed.
Integrated System for youth engaging in agriculture
Four major steps may be taken for the well participation of youth in agriculture in China.
First, national foresight for modern agriculture is urgently needed. The reason that youth do not want to work in agriculture sector is when one recalls the image of agriculture – hard working, strong sunshine, sweat and bitter are the key words, not the four successful stories I shared above. So in order to attract youth, a clear shape of modern agriculture is urgently needed. In this process, consultation from local stakeholders–especially the ignored farmers’ voice — international agencies, NGOs are widely needed, and the most important, innovative foresight from youth should give higher priority.
Then based on the foresight, a clear strategy needs to be formed. The government should take this responsibility to list key fields and operational guidelines, like five-year plan for especially for youth to join in agriculture. It should be a joint power force to work on this strategy. Mational Development and Reorm Commission (NDRC), MOA, Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Finance (MOF), Ministry of Commerce (MOC), Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) should join together with the youth associations.
Third, at the operational level, an effective mechanism is needed. Ministries should work together for an efficient support system. The mechanism can be like this: MOA and MOST work on the training and extension for farmers; MOE can work on agricultural education. Two aspects need to be highlighted here: 1) There will be fewer labor working in agriculture but the quality of labor will improve, for those who will work in non-ag sectors, training/education should be occupation-oriented 2) Training/education for those who will stay in agriculture, both channels should not only focus on agricultural related work but also aimed at comprehensive and multidiscipline producers and managers. MOC and the Financial System should take the responsibility for effective financial support, especially for credit and agricultural insurance. Meanwhile, MOA and MOHRSS should work on the balance of urbanization and new countryside construction, especially for rural development and social protection system.
Finally, massive advocacy networks need to be established. All kinds of medias, even awards or competitions, conferences, and other channels can cooperate to advocate modern agriculture. Policies which encourage the development of modern agriculture and youth in participation agriculture, successful stories, awards of youth in ARD, and international foresights and experiences can be broadly publicized to establish the social atmosphere of encouraging agriculture.
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