Bangladesh is primarily an agrarian economy where 30% of the country’s GDP comes from Agriculture. Sixty per cent of the total labour force of the country works in the agriculture sector. Although food production has increased in the last couple of years, however, due to climate change, food production is going to be affected severely. Rapid urbanization could lead to a shortage of labourers in the agriculture sector. The UN World Health Organization predicts that “by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people” meaning that there will be less young people in the rural areas to engage in Agriculture work.

Engaging youth in agriculture has been a prominent topic in the Global Development agenda, as there is growing concern that young people are becoming less and less interested in agriculture. If the trend continues, then it will have a major impact on the production of food globally. Moving from an Agriculture to Industrial or Service economy may be profitable in the short term, but people would still need to be fed in.

How can we engage more youth, especially urban educated youth of Bangladesh to engage in Agriculture?

Create awareness of Climate Change and Food Production at an early stage
The charitable organisation Farm Africa discovered that most pupils at schools in Kenya lacked access to training and education on farming and therefore were not interested to consider Agriculture as a future career. We may need to find out how to add agriculture and climate change as a topic in the school curriculum in Bangladesh, not only to make students interested to get into food production, but also letting them aware of the impact of climate change, scarcity of water and energy efficiency.

Establish Youth led Agribusiness Incubators
Incubators will help the Youth to develop very sustainable business proposals for Agribusiness. Educated youth can focus on non-core farming activities, like Soil Management, Crop selection, Distribution network management, packaging of agricultural products for foreign import and organic farming. In Sri Lanka, youth are engaging in Agricultural technologies and developing small-scale agribusinesses, they are also innovating small production system. Bahrain has business incubators-youth is going into Organic farming. These incubators can be funded by the Government or through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Support Organic Food/farming
The total land area under organic cultivation in Bangladesh has been estimated at 0.177 million hectares (Source: GreenwatchBD). Organic farming could be a profitable enterprise for youths in Bangladesh with a growing global demand. Local consumers in Bangladesh are not still aware much about the benefits of organic food and they may not be willing to pay a higher price for organic fruits and vegetables, except a few. But being outward looking, a good foreign income might be generated if we have good packing, storing of the organic production. Again, the Public-Private Partnership can play a role in transforming Bangladesh a prime source globally for organic vegetables/fruits.

Encourage Youth-led Innovation in Agriculture
The educated youth in Bangladesh can introduce new technological solutions to Agriculture, i.e. Big Data for weather forecasting, market demand to precision farming by using global positioning systems (GPS) and GPS-computer guided tractors and harvesters. Including ICT tools, youth can have better manage the supply chain system, irrigation for crops, info-sharing using mobile apps etc. One of the examples of using smart phones for agriculture ‘Nano Ganesh app’ enables farmers to use their mobile phone to remotely turn water pumps on and off. This offers a great way for farmers to save water, money and time. M Farm provides up-to-date market information to farmers on their mobile phones. These innovations may eventually make Agriculture efficient and attractive to youth.

Involving in agriculture offers anyone a chance to make a difference by growing food to feed the world and end hunger and malnutrition. The world with almost 10 billion people by 2050, requires all of us to be serious and concern about food security which heavily depends on the other two nexus — water and energy (both are becoming very scarce resources). Getting youth involved will also solve our youth unemployment problem substantially.

Naguib Chowdhuryis currently working in a Development Bank as Innovation Specialist.