There’s a new programme to tackle rural youth unemployment in India

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The Agri-Entrepreneur (AE) Enterprise platform aims to optimize all processes, from the selection of an AE leading up to their day-to-day business activities and farmer interactions.

Rural youth trained in Agri-Business Management as well as soft skills, provided with digital tools to seamlessly provide agriculture extension and engage small farmers; AE Program to be scaled up to different parts of the country

The National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) and Syngenta Foundation India (SFI)are tackling unemployment among rural youth and focusing on improving the plight of farmers in rural India through an Agri Entrepreneurship (AE) model.

An AE brings together services such as credit and market linkage, access to high-quality inputs and crop advisory for a group of farmers. The model is currently active across seven States and, as of October 2018, over 580 AEs are associated with SFI serving over 75,000 farmers. It is going to be scaled up to different parts of the country. State Rural Livelihood Missions are showing keen interest to transform SHG women as AEs.

The Agri-Entrepreneur (AE) Enterprise platform aims to optimize all processes, from the selection of an AE leading up to their day-to-day business activities and farmer interactions. It will lead to faster scaling up, adding greater transparency and facilitating the creation of networks for seamless knowledge transfer.

Talking about the Agri Entrepreneurs, Dr. W.R. Reddy IAS , Director General NIRD&PR said, “Farmers across country at present need commodity-centric experts in the form of service providers who could bring in knowledge related to crop science, input services, value addition and market linkages as a one-stop solution to the farmer.”

Further, He added: “The AEs we are promoting with the support of SFI will be spread across the country in a scalable proposition in the next five years, providing market-ready services to the farmers while being able to generate revenue for themselves.”

The Digital Platform serves as a tool for providing personalized digital extension services to the farmer. Based on principles of micro-learning, the content is created in-house and validated by agriculture experts. Currently, the content for the advisory is available in 5 local languages. Kuza technologies is the technology partner to this initiative and offers integrated technology solution for every stage of AE model from selection of AEs to impact assessment of the initiative.

Rural communities across the country are experiencing difficulties, leaving the agriculture-dependent households in distress. This has resulted in the need for de-risking agriculture and improving it as a livelihood. This can be achieved through building strategies for improving productivity, value addition, and market linkages for the produce of small primary producers.

Mr. Prakash Apte, Chairman Syngenta Foundation India said that the major challenge with Indian agriculture has been delivery of the right technologies at right time and at an affordable price. Agri-entrepreneurs model is a decentralized village level delivery model, where farmers can access knowledge, technologies and markets at one place.

Mr Apte added that as more and more companies and organizations partner in this platform development, it will be transformative. Currently, apart from the State governments (Bihar, AP and Maharashtra), Tata Trusts, Rabobank Foundation, Kuza Technologies, Transform Rural India, IDBI Bank and SBI are some of the major partners.

Having observed the impact of AEs on improving the income of the farmers, the State Rural Livelihood Missions (SRLM) of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra have joined hands with NIRDPR to promote AEs in a scalable proposition in their respective States.

At present, the AE programme is underway in five districts in Bihar and two districts in Andhra Pradesh and in 13 districts of Maharashtra. The AE initiative aims to develop a cadre of rural youth Agri Entrepreneurs who work with 200-300 farmers in a cluster of 2-3villages. They act as a one-stop resource provider for agriculture needs of small producers and bring together services such as credit and market linkages, access to high quality input, and crop advisory for a group of farmers. The AE for each cluster is chosen from one of the villages in the cluster and derives their revenue by providing these services to the farmers.

The candidates undergo a rigorous selection process, including a 45-day fully residential programme. They are exposed to functional knowledge related to local crops, basic aspects of Agri Business Management as well as soft skills. At the end of the programme, the AEs are provided with a digital kit, which has a unique device which streams HD videos without access to internet.

This digital equipment is carried in a customized backpack designed for ease-of-mobility. The digital platform serves as a tool for providing personalized digital extension services to the farmer. Based on principles of micro-learning, the content is created in-house and is validated by agriculture experts. Currently, the content for advisory is available in 5 local languages. Pop-quizzes at the end of each advisory video help receive feedback from farmers and also work as a tool to assess their learning.

Constant feedback on performance and handholding of AEs for a period of time post training is also institutionalized in the field with the selected AE mentors.

Mr. Arvind Kumar, a graduate youth working as a Village Resource Person of Village Organization promoted by Jeevika in Bihar began working with banana farmers following this AE programme. Having noticed the challenges being faced by them in marketing, he started providing direct consultancy after gathering an understanding of the buyers’ requirement. In a short span of 3 months, farmers benefited by selling over 16 tons of bananas through Aravind Kumar. It is estimated to be realized an additional increment of 15-20%percentageas a result of this initiative.

The AE initiative is grooming small farmers into a well-trained and progressive farmers. They are empowered with the technical know-how to increase yields, reduce costs, and turn agriculture into a profitable enterprises. It has also led to youth being gainfully self-employed and being accorded the opportunity to participate in rural development.

SFI is an independent not-for-profit organization set up in 2005 to educate small and marginal farmers on the latest agriculture developments and to improve their income.

About NIRDPR
The National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR), an autonomous organization under the Union Ministry of Rural Development, is a premier national centre of excellence in rural development and Panchayati Raj. Recognized internationally as one of the UN-ESCAP Centres of Excellence, it builds capacities of rural development functionaries, elected representatives of PRIs, bankers, NGOs and other stakeholders through inter-related activities of training, research and consultancy. The Institute is located in the historic city of Hyderabad in Telangana state. The NIRD&PR celebrated its Golden Jubilee Year of establishment in 2008. In addition to the main campus at Hyderabad, this Institute has North-Eastern Regional Centre at Guwahati, Assam to meet the NE-regional needs.

Source: India Today

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