By Keron Bascombe, agri-blogger and writer
For young people in agriculture, we face many challenges and there are always problems. Suggested, proposed and implemented answers never seem to work, much less sustainably. This may be due to the recurring issue that youth are left out of ag policy that is targeted to youth.
How can policy makers solve agricultural problems that they have never experienced or simply cannot relate to? Even so, there are young farmers that are successful. What of them? They face the same challenges that other young people face in agriculture, do they not? Then, how did they succeed? More importantly, how do they continue to be successful?
A brief interview with Ravi Reine, a young farmer from Trinidad and Tobago, yields some answers to these questions. As a greenhouse farmer, Ravi has had some success in terms of crops and eventual profit. He has also become involved in the rearing of livestock and the application of simple innovative agri techniques to his enterprise.
As with many young producers around the world, he faces the same issues; lack of access to land, capital and other farm input resources. Mainly issues in land access have prevented him from expanding his enterprise. In the Caribbean, there are severe problems in accessing government land which is a long and arduous process. This leads to persons squatting on lands that are not owned. However, Ravi is intent on abstaining from this practice.
Accessing capital is also a major concern limiting the growth of the enterprise. In addition, a lack of technical support has become an issue. With sometimes deficient extension services or a limited amount of private agricultural services, young farmers, such as Ravi, must play the role of heavy risk takers, investing in new technologies, strategies or techniques that are not guaranteed to succeed. With capital and resources already in limited supply, the risk is quite great.
To overcome these problems, many youth recommend different strategies. Diversification of an agri enterprise is always a great option. By making micro investments in multiple outlets, a steady stream of income is possible which is better for the growing phase of the farm enterprise. As exemplified by Ravi, he opened up his agri activities from greenhouse vegetable production to include livestock production as well.
Another option lies in the sharing of resources. Young farmers can work together to share their limited resources for the benefit of all. Also, despite the negative effects of risk taking, doing just that is an important action. Without risk there can be no rewards. Young persons are encouraged to try new things once the chances for success are acceptable. Sometimes you gain, other times you lose.
Apart from these general recurring issues, young farmers may face some unexpected challenges. One such issue lies in the dominance of older stakeholders in positions of importance and influence. As the older, experienced farmer, such individuals are capable, hold the necessary input resources but are not in full support of younger farmers and their initiatives.
In short, the issue arises out of a clash between traditional activities which are proven to yield results and modern innovation which is experimental and untested. However, innovation only arises when there are problems to be solved. Simultaneously we now know that risk is a part of agribusiness.
Although Ravi has several accomplishments as a farmer, he believes he has many more in his future. In order to ensure this he recommends that young farmers stay dedicated and are persistent in their efforts as agri-entrepreneurs.
He says, "Educate yourself as to the many facets of agriculture especially in terms of technology. Consider pursuing agro processing or value added activities in addition to existing agricultural production, no matter the type. Agriculture is an ever changing and growing thing; you must be just as dynamic."