More than 60% of the youth of the country live in villages. Unemployment and underemployment are major issues in rural areas since young people lack skills, work experience and the necessary financial support for setting up some sort of enterprise in their villages.
Farming is largely seen as a risky and unattractive option for youngsters mainly because agriculture is not viewed as an income generating vocation.
Moreover, the inadequacy of social protection schemes and active market policies mean that young rural people have little support outside the circle of their family and friends. Whether it is for setting up a small shop or even travelling to other places outside their region in search of opportunities, most youngsters in rural India depend on close relatives for monetary help.
In the absence of opportunities at the village level, the trend of migration – which has been a fact of life for rural Indians for nearly a century – has begun to accelerate in recent times, with the youth now joining the exodus towards towns and cities. This has a direct impact on labour availability for farm activities in the village.
In an effort to try to stop this migration and as well as generate some income for the young – at least in one corner of rural India – the Krishi Vigyana Kendra (KVK) in Tumkur, Karnataka, in collaboration with the Coconut Development Board (CDB) and the Karnataka State Rural Livelihood Promotion Society, has organised several coconut tree climbing and plant protection sessions to train unemployed rural youth.
The reason for organising this in Tumkur district in the state is because the area has a vast number of coconut trees (spread over about 1.5 lakh ha) and faces problems in sourcing labour for plucking the nuts. There is also little or no little knowledge about fertiliser application and management, controlling
pests and diseases, or awareness about value addition.
The training was conducted by developing a suitable practical module that imparts more importance to demonstrations than theory – so that young workers could learn from hands-on experience. It focused more on skill development like tree climbing by using equipment under the supervision of a master trainer, and the treatment of pest and disease affected coconut gardens, including integrated nutrient management and other improved production practices. At the end of training, the young trainees were provided with a palm climbing machine.
“There was a good response from the youth regarding the programme with respect to topics covered, training methods and materials used, field visit arranged and other facilities provided like food and
accommodation,” says T.S. Sukanya, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bidaregudi Kaval, Konehalli, Tiptur taluk, Tumkur district.
One of the young trainees, Nataraju, left his masonry work in the city where he was earning only Rs. 200-300 a day and is now engaged full-time in palm climbing. He travels across Tumkur district and is able to save up to Rs. 800-1,000 per day.
“I am self-employed and have cleared more than Rs. 50,000 that I had taken in loans from friends and neighbours. I have also managed to buy a new two wheeler in a short period due to my income,” he says with a sense of pride.
Nataraju and other trainees formed two groups called the Kalpasiri and Kalpa Ganga coconut climbers group. Both consist of 10 to 15 palm climbers, all trained by KVK. Some of them are engaged part-time in harvesting nuts and crown cleaning, along with their regular farm activities, while others are engaged in harvesting nuts at their farm.
After the formation of these groups, the CDN, Bangalore, has planned more training sessions at the
village level and has drawn a good response.
Young rural workers in the age group of 26 to 35 years make up a large and potentially productive cohort. They can be made to undertake agricultural production work, processing crops into value added products and marketing them provided the government takes care to properly tap their potential, say experts in this field. The KVK’s work in Tumkur shows is merely a small example of what is possible.
Dr. T.S. Sukanya, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bidaregudi Kaval, Konehalli, Tiptur (tq),
Tumkur District, Karnataka 572 202
Phone: 08134 294771, Mob:09449866936