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Growing Craze of Nepalese youth's interest on ICTs for agriculture

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Dinesh Panday - B.Sc. in Agriculture from the Tribhuvan University (TU), in Nepal. His areas of research interest include soil fertility, nutrient cycling and sustainable soil management, but he is also active in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) for rural and agricultural development.

 

Last year, during the World Bank’s Open Forum that addressed the world's food crisis, we brainstormed for ideas on how to put food first for the almost one billion people who go to bed hungry today. A lot of the solutions were offered but one of the ideas from the World Bank's Facebook page made an impression on me. Julius Ayi wrote: "I believe governments must also encourage youth to work in agriculture"

Agriculture is important to the development of any nation, and Nepal being no exception, is based on smallholder family-owned farms that are mainly subsistence oriented and yet not capable of feeding the people and facilitating economic development for the country. Young people make up 39% of the population, defined in Nepal’s National Youth Policy as those aged 16-40. The lack of participation from young people in farming and the agricultural economy must be seen as a matter of grave concern to all; indeed it directly threatens the future of agriculture and rural economic transformation. Agri-culture has lost the word ‘culture’ from its name, and so for tackling bigger concerns of economic boost, self-employment, entrepreneurship, sustainability and societal wellbeing, we would need to think of adding more innovative terms next to the word ‘Agri’, such as Agri-enterprise, Agri-business, and so on. Innovative thought is needed indeed!
 
Youth are the key part of a country's national, socio-economic and political life. Youth engagement in  developmental work is meant to empower young people to play an assertive and constructive role, but the main thing is that their roles depend on the family background and what feedback they have provided to youth.
 
Binita Shrestha, a recent agriculture graduate from the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (Nepal), advocates on youth policy saying, "Young people constitute an important and significant part of the population, yet this is not reflected in their level of involvement in decision-making processes and public debates. Young people’s open-minded attitude to technology, and their different perspective, vision and motivation can contribute to practical solutions", she adds.
 
One of the things missing in today’s agriculture is imagination. Today’s generation of farmers, teachers, agricultural scientists, policy makers and also the media have collectively failed to trigger the imagination of young generations. Yes, there are major challenges, farming is not an easy or glamorous option, but there are ways of doing agriculture in a sustainable and rewarding manner. 
 
Better services and education, especially designed for the rural areas can contribute to increasing food production and to higher profits, but comprehensive efforts are needed. A forum is an open space that allows contributing to farmers’ voices being heard by concerned officials and agencies. For instance, “Krishi Karyakram” and "LI-BIRDko chautari"- radio program, “Krishakko Pana”- printed media, etc. are effective in raising farmers’ awareness on issues and challenges of agriculture. 
 
There are lots of successful stories of youth involvement in agriculture.Youth empowerment in the agricultural sector promotes activities related to raising awareness and advocacy campaigns through youth networks. Several results show that young professionals play important participative roles in their communities, through local social clubs and young farmers’ organizations. 
 
In recent times, the information technology sector is booming propelled by the rapidly growing usage of mobile phone and internet services. Mobile phones can help in agriculture and rural development by providing information to farmers about market demand and supply, about market opportunities and much more. Agricultural professionals are more and more concerned with the potential uses of ICT for rural development, while these tools also continue to be popular among young people. For instance: 

These are innitiatives related to share ideas, articles, technologies they encounter, problems, stories, analysis, view points, opinions, solutions, etc. related to agriculture and rural development.

To conclude, ICTs have a great role to play in agricultural development, food security and rural development. ICTs will allow farmers to show with globalization (E-trade, e-selling, e-learning, e-education).  To achieve these goals, youth have to be implicated because there are those concerned by economic growth, social security and political stability, because youth represents more than 60% of handwork in all sector notably agriculture, more than 80% are students, and they are those who will lead the world tomorrow and ICTs is an essential key. 
Focusing on the youth therefore, in programs that stimulate sustainable agricultural development, is necessary. It was recommended that a robust relationship between agencies interested and government of Nepal to encourage youth involvement in agriculture by supporting and promoting rural infrastructure and equal access to the use of ICTs among women and men is critical. This will enhance youth involvement and can act as catalyst in agricultural development.  
 
The upcoming event taking place during the month of September in Nepal, Asia Pacific Graduates Youth Forum on Green Economy (http://gradyouth.wordpress.com) will be helpful to facilitate information and knowledge sharing, networking and advocacy in the Asia-Pacific Region through the establishment of virtual and physical networks of dedicated youth. 
 

 
Dinesh has been recently selected in the second place at the 2012 Alltech Young Scientist Awardplace, USA. for the India Sub-continent Zone Medal Winner
He was also one of the best 22 participants in the 2011 World Bank Essay Competition entitled "Youth Migration", among many other awards that he has received in the last years.