Youth in Agriculture: Experience From Pakistan
This post was written by Arshad Ali, who is an agribusiness and microfinance specialist for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
This picture was taken in Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan, where the area is rugged and mountainous. People have fragmented and small landholdings. Agriculture is predominantly subsistence, with little surplus offered for marketing. The geographic region lies under a single cropping zone, as the winters are harsh and long. Besides plenty of other challenges, out-migration and changing youth preferences have far-reaching consequences for mountain agriculture. Literacy rates are high in the valley, and a large portion of the young working force opt to live in urban centers. Traditionally, mountain communities assisted each other through family exchange labor. This practice has been diminishing owing to rapidly declining numbers of family members staying in the village. As stated earlier, the younger generations are migrating to cities for education and in search of off-farm jobs. However, new trends suggest that many educated unemployed youth are returning back to the mountains. These youth are struggling with adopting agriculture as a main livelihood source, as agriculture management in these mountains requires hours of outdoor manual work often in tough conditions.
The key question is how to engage youth in mountain agriculture? The adoption of machines and modern agricultural tools and implements feasible for small landholdings can reduce the manual workload and provide youth with great opportunities to engage in farming. The valley borders China, and the much celebrated China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through this valley. This has great potential for local farm producers to explore new market avenues in the neighboring Chinese market and import agricultural machines, tools and implements to improve the productivity and agribusiness landscape of the area. As mentioned earlier, the shortage of labor has greatly impinged upon local agriculture. The transfer of technology — mainly agricultural machineries, tools and implements for production, harvesting and post-harvest handling — can have significant positive impact on agriculture production and marketing in the region.
- Support and encourage local young entrepreneurs to establish a supply network of appropriate agriculture tools and implements.
- Provincial governments should devise policies favorable to local importers and distributors of agricultural tools and implements.
- Development agencies should work in collaboration with farmers and all actors engaged in the importation and testing of exogenous tools and experiment and demonstrate their acceptability in the region.