Thinking beyond Ecology: Can Reskilling Youth Lead to Sustainable Transitions in Agri-Food Systems?
1. Skills for Transforming Agri-Food Systems
2. Deskilling in Agriculture: An Institutional Perspective
3. Role of Youth in Agri-Food System Transformations
4. Skilling beyond Conventional Education and Extension Institutions
4.1. Approach and Methods
- Understanding multiple realities of agroecology-based practices through exposure to the socio-economic dynamics in the operation of various stakeholders.
- Creating scope for immersive learning through engagement with various stakeholders such as farmers, civil society organisations and agroprocessing industries.
4.2. Case 1: Natural Farming Fellowship Programme (NFF)
“So, till now we have five batches of natural farming fellows … This has been a learning journey as with every batch we realised that immersion takes time, so they were not offered fellowship right away. You work for one season, become a role model farmer. Let the community give you a tag of natural farmer because if you don’t do natural farming with the community, you are of no use. So, you have to practice one season to complete the induction and then you are offered the fellowship. This eventually became part of our extension process as farmers could relate to someone working alongside them in the same area. There is a different level of conviction people get when they see the fellows working with them”.(JG)
- Unlearning and experimentation
“In graduation, we learned only about chemical agriculture. In the fellowship, we learned about nature farming at the field level. I learned to conduct field experiments and do farming as well as develop technical and communication skills”.
“during graduation, we did not have practical knowledge of our own field; most of it was textbook knowledge limited to classroom lectures. During the NF Fellowship, we practiced on our own field and that allowed us to develop practical skills”.(SVP) (ibid, p. 1007)
“I learned so many things through the fellowship, like how to communicate with farmers … undergraduate experience mostly had only theoretical knowledge, but in our fellowship, we gained ground-level knowledge from farmers like how to reduce cost of cultivation, how to take preventive measures on our field, which type of botanical extracts can be used to particular pest or disease…”(RMS)
- Perceived impact and sense of achievement
“The work done by me has positively impacted many farmers in and around the village tremendously and my story was covered in Jai Kisan events (the video has been uploaded on YouTube)”.(RR)
“In my early stage of farming, I started with Pre-Monsoon Dry Sowing (An innovative method developed by another NF) … while other farmers used green manures, I used 10 types of plants as green manure and got an unexpectedly large yield of 35 bags. This drew the interest of nearby farmers, and they wanted to know more about PMDS. When I sold my produce higher than market value, my sale drew other farmers’ interest towards NF. In the next season, I started developing desi varieties and sold the seeds to other farmers, proving that the capability and high nutrient values of desi varieties as compared to hybrid varieties. Many other farmers and teachers and students visited my field to observe the diversified cropping”.(SVP) (ibid, p. 1008)
- Building identities in alignment with the movement
“We realised that the agricultural education being taught at universities isn’t helping graduates take up farming as an occupation. Most of them some bank as agricultural officers, specially boys find higher remuneration in marketing jobs and girls either do some clerical jobs in some firms or enter non-sector job entirely”.(ibid, p. 1009)
“After the fellowship I want to become a well-known farmer in my own village, I want to start my own farming in my own field in my native village, and also become an entrepreneur by marketing natural farming products, by developing desi paddy varieties and also having own poultry and dairy”.(JGD) (ibid, p. 1008)
- Self-efficacy and confidence in one’s efforts
“We learned new methods of farming like guli ragi, PMDS (Pre-Monsoon Dry Sowing) models, SRT (Suguna rice technology) model, etc.; it increased our confidence that we can independently start our career as farmer without depending on any other job. It increased our leadership qualities and we learned how to interact with community and also how to react with situations…”(SVP)
4.3. Case 2: A Research Internship for Vocational Education Students
- Design and implementation
5. Sustainable Skills to Sustainable Livelihood
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
See https://education.icar.gov.in/Files/CURRICULLA%20FOR%20NATURAL%20FARMING.pdf (accessed on 2 May 2023)—the draft Natural Farming curriculum that is being introduced by ICAR in India.
In the case of the Gandhinagar KVK affiliated with Gujarat Vidyapeeth, a university in Ahmedabad, they have conducted significant work in promoting sustainable agriculture, going beyond their mandate. Their story has been documented in a blog by the authors—https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/post/kvks-enable-sustainable-transitions (accessed on 2 May 2023).
An unpublished study guided by the authors of a Verghese Kurien Rural Internship study in 2021. See https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/post/re-envisioning-agricultural-education-needs-more-than-a-new-syllabus (accessed on 20 July 2023).
The study is part of a larger action research project on “Living Farm Incomes: Civic Action, Equity and Sustainability” that looks at engaging educational institutions with ongoing alternatives to agriculture in India. More details on the work on managing sustainable transitions can be found at https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/blog/categories/managing-sustainable-transitions, and other pages on the website (accessed on 5 May 2023).
The internship programme with many of the design principles focussed on the involvement of youth from diverse backgrounds in the agri-food system in India. See https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/post/verghese-kurien-rural-internships-creating-pathways-for-empathy-and-empowerment (accessed on 5 May 2023).
Elements of the design draw from experiments in inducting young professionals in the National Rural Livelihood Mission. See https://rural.nic.in/sites/default/files/NRLM_Guidelines_English.pdf (accessed on 7 May 2023).
The conversations with the students were recorded as a blog. See https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/post/grounded-and-practical-an-alternative-vision-for-agri-education-at-lokbharti (accessed on 5 May 2023).
See https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/blog/categories/stories-from-our-interns for more details. (accessed on 5 May 2023).
One of their stories was captured as a blog in Gujarati See https://www.smallfarmincomes.in/post/story-of-nareshbhai-radadia-natural-farming-gujarat (accessed on 5 May 2023).
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Dutta, D.; Prasad, C.S.; Chakraborty, A. Thinking beyond Ecology: Can Reskilling Youth Lead to Sustainable Transitions in Agri-Food Systems? Soc. Sci. 2023, 12, 478. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12090478
Dutta D, Prasad CS, Chakraborty A. Thinking beyond Ecology: Can Reskilling Youth Lead to Sustainable Transitions in Agri-Food Systems? Social Sciences. 2023; 12(9):478. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12090478Chicago/Turabian Style
Dutta, Deborah, C. Shambu Prasad, and Arnab Chakraborty. 2023. "Thinking beyond Ecology: Can Reskilling Youth Lead to Sustainable Transitions in Agri-Food Systems?" Social Sciences 12, no. 9: 478. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12090478