Some people like it, some hate it but, we cant dispute the fact that the number of social media (SM) users keeps growing every passing day.
Everywhere and anywhere, in cities, in towns, in remote villages even in poorer countries, we find the young and the old glued to smartphones. No wonder, if you ask young ones to choose between food or phone, many may opt for a smartphone. Youth today- ever- ready to skip a meal but cant miss social media updates. They cant give up smartphones, but we can make smartphones more meaningful to them.
Many boys today want a motorbike and a cell phone, just for fun, without any constructive engagement. Given this growing craze for smartphones among youth, it could be a good tool to lure them to farming.
The young ones hate doing farming, we know it well. This dislike of youth for agriculture has forced older farmers to engage significantly in farming globally. But we know it well, compared to the young, older farmers are less likely to adopt the new technologies needed to sustainably increase agricultural productivity. To feed the growing world population and achieve food security in the future, we must look to the youth. Maybe we need to rebrand farming to encourage more young people into agriculture. There could be many ways to do this.
The young ones would be attracted to the agricultural entrepreneurship, not just food production with poor returns. Often farmers are shown in problems, poverty, dressed shabbily! Cant we reverse this trend by showing well-dressed farmers, marketing their produce smartly, engaging in value chains not just producing but processing, labelling, branding as well as the way agriprenurs do and mint money?
Can we create platforms which show agriculture as a profitable vocation? Social Media could be the game changer and handy to train the youth, attracting them to agriprneneurship.
We need to make agriculture attractive, full of glamour for the growing population of youth. The huge young population bulge needs to make their social media engagements a bit more constructive and form and inform meaningful experiences.
Shifting their choices from leisure exchanges to technical skills, not so easy but not impossible too. We need to do this, to make agriculture cool to youth, sooner the better! We need to generate interesting social media contents directed to skilling youth in agriculture. We as development professionals also need to develop a more systematic approach to using social media as one medium through which information with farmers, extension agents, and the public can be shared effectively.
The smart farming done by innovative agripreneurs who could change their lives through agricultural incomes can be shared via social media in interesting ways. The agripreneurs can inspire the youth to take up agriculture, if their stories are shared via SM channels like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc. The youth need smart agricultural skills and SM can help in a big way in skilling the youth in good agricultural production practices, leading to profitable agriculture.
On World Youth Skills Day this year, a training on vermin-composting was jointly organized for twenty-five rural youth by scientists of ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute and a young entrepreneur- Mr Prateek Bajaj. Once trained on vermicompost production by KVK, IVRI, Prateek has turned a successful entrepreneur now. He markets vermicompost with a brand of his own. He frequently uses Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp for learning and sharing technical information and advancing his vermicomposting business. Unfortunately, many youths are not doing what Prateek has been doing with Social Media.
Almost all these 25 youths were having smartphones. I queried by asking them; do they use their phones for agricultural purposes or any other technical information sharing? Unfortunately, none of them had ever used phones for agricultural or technical information.
Social media offer the potential to promote opportunities, and eventually facilitate positive youth development. Considering the importance of social media among youth, it is critical to understand how to use it as a tool to foster youth development. Social media is not just about posting cat videos, it also gives young farmers and entrepreneurs opportunities to promote their ideas or businesses online.
We appealed to the youth to make their social media engagements more productive, the way Mr Bajaj do. I hope at least some of them will follow, what we told them.
Photo credits: Dr Mahesh Chander