The perception of ‘dirty, poor and subsistence work’ on agriculture sector cannot be changed without concerted efforts from all the stakeholders.
How cool would it be to work in an industry that represents close to 4 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP)? The one that is the source of livelihood for over 20 million people and the one which contributes to the food and nutritional security of the billion-plus Indians.
Further, the question whether India’s agribusiness sector is equipped with appropriate pension plans to face the enormous threats of the coming decades, remains to be answered convincingly. Some of these threats include climate change, land degradation, water scarcity, pest and diseases and pollution.
With the explosion of middle-class and growing incomes, the domestic demand for protein is increasing rapidly. Driven mainly by rapid urbanisation and high economic growth, India’s dynamic livestock is one of the fastest growing (6-8 percent annually) in recent years much better than the crop sectors. It also plays an important role in the socio-economic fabric of rural India.
Globally, India ranks first in production of milk; second in fish; third in egg; and fourth in broiler. India’s milk sector is worth around USD 88 billion. The Indian poultry sector is valued at USD 13 billion and the country’s animal feed sector is clocking a value of USD 5 billion in 2017.
An estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture puts the demand for skilled employees at around 5,50,000 in the next four years only in the poultry industry. This sector needs much more in terms of intellectual capital--skillful hands and creative minds--and offers immense potential for growth to those who are willing to explore the vast ocean of opportunities for professionals from all streams.
Yet, millennials have not exhibited enough enthusiasm over agriculture and livestock sectors as a preferred career path. Perhaps it is most concerning that since the last five to six decades youth globally had been shunning agriculture over other professions. A common perception is that jobs in the agriculture and livestock sectors are usually low-skilled, low-technology and are low-paid.
Across the world, the animal-agribusiness sector is transitioning into ‘hi-tech’ with increasing usage of innovative technologies including Internet of Things, cloud-based innovations, mobile applications and artificial intelligence. India is also witnessing the ‘tech-tsunami’ sweeping the traditional agriculture and livestock sectors with young entrepreneurs transforming the industry in recent years.
Hence, it is important to attract young people who can think out-of-the-box and be willing to weigh up risks with returns. They should also be open to adapt and take advantage of newer, innovative technologies to raise up to the challenges that none of their previous generations had. Attracting and retaining youth in the animal-agribusiness is a critical issue recognised by policymakers globally.
In India, steps are being taken by the government and civil society organisations to promote entrepreneurship and skilling through schemes like the Prime Minister Kaushal Vikas Yojana.
Today’s tech-savvy generation demands not just jobs but a satisfying career that allows them to make the world a better place through the use of technological innovations.
For them, everything in the world has simply come down to ‘one touch and click’. Every industry needs fresh ideas from outside the system and every industry needs next-gen minds with a clear vision to make a positive contribution to the society. It is impossible to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals without their significant participation.
Further, the perception of ‘dirty, poor and subsistence work’ agriculture sector cannot be changed without concerted efforts from all the stakeholders. It should start from schools and colleges through career development programmes.
Also, stakeholders should invest into need-based training and capacity building. Unless these issues are addressed with a long-term vision, appropriate policies and investments, India’s demographic dividend can easily become a demographic disaster.
In summary, India’s livestock sector holds promise for a stable, long-term and satisfying career for those who care about and want to contribute towards making the lives of millions of rural Indians better. What more can one ask for?The author is Executive Director of Compound Livestock Feed Manufacturers Association