Agriculture is Still Critical for Development

The agricultural sector is slowly dying. Governments, developed and developing, have done very little to promote sustainable growth of farming practices. Rather, existing policies and a lack of innovation and organization are facilitating the sector’s decline. Once the greatest contributor to the global economy, farming is now struggling to find a place on policymakers’ agendas. The growing influence of industrial commodities and abstract financial products reduce farming to an undesirable profession. This decline of agriculture in turn poses a serious threat to an existing food security problem. The problem is particularly critical for major agrarian countries of South Asia, especially India, which maintains the National Food Security Act to provide subsidized food to two-thirds of its population. To reinvigorate farming, governments must restructure education and create enterprise opportunities that will integrate advanced technology into agricultural practices.

Agricultural decline is a natural result of the development process. The agricultural sector has been forced to make way for other sectors to grow by giving up its resources, labor, and investment. As a country advances, it becomes less and less dependent on farming, and agriculture’s share of the GDP falls. States which have been predominantly agricultural should be encouraged to boost their agricultural yields and to discover new ways to tie agricultural practice to modern enterprises.

Agricultural yields and productivity per hectare are increasing due to modern practices; however, the benefits have still not spread across the sector as a whole. It is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive for individuals to operate in this field. India, where farmers once made up the majority of the workforce, is now losing 2000 farmers every day to urbanization, unfavorable conditions, and suicides. There is an alarming trend of decreased ownership of cultivable land and increased numbers of unskilled laborers, who have migrated out of agriculture. Similar patterns can be seen in China and Indonesia. As the largest and most influential country in South Asia, a decline in Indian agriculture could have a serious impact on the rest of the region. South Asia’s population is growing at a higher rate than its ability to produce food. Governments are finding it hard to attract younger generations into farming even after providing a range of incentives. There is a large migration of the workforce out of agriculture and rural areas into crowded towns and city centers. Rising urbanization might result in higher income levels per capita but it also puts greater pressure on the economy. A prime example of this is China, which needs to generate a minimum of 10 million new jobs every year to merely maintain its current urban unemployment rate, let alone decrease it. The current reliance of economic advancement and development is excessively tilted towards manufacturing and financial products.

 

Governments have been exhausting their resources by providing monetary assistance to farmers in the forms of subsidies and loans— measures which have not been effective. Agricultural sustainability depends upon the quality of the work force, strong sectoral education, and research and development investment. Agriculture, which is usually considered a practice of the Labor Economy, needs to be become a part of the Talent Economy. Large agricultural economies such as India can begin modernizing agricultural education by linking it to other popular career streams. The current curriculum and research focus only on agricultural practices and lack explanations of its commercial value and avenues for innovation.  Additionally, institutions are severely underfunded and outdated. Proper farming education is an amalgamation of life sciences, engineering, and business studies. Introducing or updating subjects such as ‘agro-science’ and ‘agro-business’ would help in several ways. First, it would organize and strengthen this sector. Second, it would diversify its workforce from the current owner and laborer mentality. Third, it would initiate small scale agricultural enterprises and local cooperatives. These efforts can help India sustain its food security goals and also expand its economy on a vast variety of agricultural exports. Indian efforts to revive agriculture as a backbone of its economic growth have the potential to inspire similar ventures by other developing economies. The agricultural sector has the potential to reduce poverty for 78% of the world’s poor. Investing in agricultural education will raise incomes, provide food security, and alleviate stressors on the environment.