Get youths to become agro-entrepreneurs

By Farhan Kamarulzaman7 March 2020 Malaysia

Youths should be involved in meeting the food security challenge of the country. - NSTP/File picYouths should be involved in meeting the food security challenge of the country. - NSTP/File pic

Nurturing agro-entrepreneurship among youths must be broadened in order to promote greater opportunities in agriculture.

Most of them possess entrepreneurship skills but are uninterested in the agricultural sector as they still live with the mindset that pursuing a salary-based career is better.

Food security is recognized as a major global challenge. It would be great if the agriculture sector could be maximized by youths as a means of preparing for food security challenges in Malaysia.

A top emerging agricultural economist, Fabio G. Santeramo, said that food security is a serious issue and deserves special attention.

According to reports, our food production is a long way behind neighboring countries.

Problems arise as food production requires a lot of manpower because of the high turnover rate. Besides the weak ringgit, fertilizers and pesticides are also expensive. These issues add to the waning interest of farmers in the agricultural sector in food production and they instead opt for the plantation sector.

Since food production in agriculture is not only one of the most important sectors but also the most criticized and undervalued, effective action should be taken to address problems. Vigorous efforts should be taken to attract farmers to this sector. Perhaps financial assistance can be extended to reduce the burden on farmers.

In the United States, for example, the founder of the First Generation Farmers, Alli Cecchini, has launched several programs such as the Urban Edge Sustainable Farming Programme to provide training in basic production skills, business knowledge, and personal development in order to establish the next generation of resilient urban farmers and farm enterprises.

Surely, we can launch similar programs. Agriculture and entrepreneurship are connected. The basic concept is about creating value for the business. For instance, online platforms can be set up where consumers can directly access the farmers in different areas.

In Nigeria, FarmCrowdy, the first digital agriculture platform was introduced to connect small-scale farmers with sponsors investing in the full farm cycle. The company has more than 1,000 sponsors across Nigeria, the United States and the United Kingdom, supporting more than 2,000 small-scale farmers across eight states.

Existing farmers should also be business-oriented and possess skills and knowledge of entrepreneurship. This will help them to be open and creative in the development of the sector.

Since the National Agrofood Policy 2011-2020 (NAP4) is a guide to the development of agriculture in the country, the objectives should be highlighted along with an effective action plan.

The suggested solution is for the government to set up agricultural zones in each state and provide the aspirants with financial and technical assistance, as well as helping farmers with basic management and marketing strategy.

Young Malaysians are generally attracted to technology. Lee Yi Lin, one of IPB University’s alumni in Bogor, Indonesia, said technology is one of the clear answers to get the youths involved in agriculture and food production.

The use of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and other emerging technologies will make it more appealing for the younger generation.

Everyone should be involved in promoting agro-entrepreneurship among young people to help the nation combat youth unemployment and increase the sector’s share in the economy.