Have you ever wondered how demanding the youths are for the agriculture sector in many countries around the world? With 88% of youths living in developing countries, youths make up ⅕ percentage of the population of developing countries, and ⅔ of them are from small farm households. According to the World Bank, about 28% of the population were employed from the agriculture sector in 2018, down from 44% in 1991 but the average age of farmers is about 60 years old. Thus, we can acknowledge that youths are increasingly turning away from agriculture to choose careers that seem more profitable for them.
Engagement of Myanmar youths in the agriculture sector
"Sadly, the youth participation in the agriculture sector is still low and there are several reasons for the lack of youth's involvement", by Ko Khun Lar Bway, one of the founders of Taung Thu Ta Da.
Like any other developing country, Myanmar is an agricultural country with over 70% of the country's population living in rural areas, and half of the country's population is estimated to be youths under the age of 27. Even though youths are the key players of the agriculture sector, the employment of youths in this sector is still low and the image of agriculture is not motivating enough for the youths. The country is facing many challenges to boost the youth's participation in agriculture which leads to youth's non-involvement in the sector. To make youths interested in agriculture, the youths must learn the fact that no matter what skills they have, they can help for the better future of this sector.
Despite not many youths are interested in agriculture, there are still a small number of youths who are working together with farmers to support small-scale farmers from rural areas in Myanmar. Amid a complex political situation in Myanmar, a local social enterprise named "Taung Thu Ta Da" (TTTD) started a donation program for farmers called the "Corn Seed Program".
What is the corn seed program and what have they done with this?
" Taung Thu Ta Da" is the product of a group of youths which is formed especially to help farmers solve their problems and to spread the words of farmers. As a program initiated by a group of youths, the Corn Seed Program came into reality after listening to the farmers' voices from Pindaya and Pinlaung Township in the Southern Shan State. As the country is facing liquidity difficulties, inflation, and financial difficulties, it is difficult for the farmers to get access to seeds. As the rainy season is approaching, it is time for farmers to grow corn which is a cash crop and an export crop of Myanmar but the prices of corn seeds have escalated from 28,000 kyats to 50,000 kyats overnight. This doubled price of corn seeds makes small-scale farmers unable to buy the seeds for this coming season. Thus, Taung Thu Ta Da came up with a program to help farmers overcome this financial difficulty by donating corn seeds for free.
The program focuses mainly on the small-scale farmers who couldn't even buy seeds to grow because of financial difficulties. Through this program, team members of TTTD have helped twenty-two small-scale farmers from Southern Shan State with 5kg of corn seeds for an acre of land and the program is continuing with the help of some retailers who would like to donate corn seeds for these farmers and also with some donors in the country. Simply donating them could not help them improve their situation and thus, to become an impactful donation, some of the TTTD team members will be assisting farmers in managing by doing farm records, recording inputs usage, expense, and problems. By helping farmers do farm record books, the team has contributed a lot to the society of farmers by teaching them how to do records and how to manipulate these records for good.
What are the challenges?
Because of the country's tragedy, youths are facing some difficulties in helping farmers.
Insufficient donation of corn seeds: Even though a retailer of corn seeds from Taunggyi assists this donation by offering a few bags of corn seeds, it's not enough for ten small-scale farmers. Donations are accepted by:
Access to finance: For a start-up, youth-led social enterprise, not every organization is willing to support finances for the activities of the team.
Liquidity difficulties: As a result of the coup, it is getting more and more difficult to get cash from local banks as most of them are not open at the time. Massive inflation in the country is causing more difficulties in doing the team's activities.
Transportation: The coup is causing delays in transporting the produce of farmers from one place to another and the rising transportation costs is increasing the burden of the team's responsibility in helping farmers sell their produce.
Inspiration for youths
This encouraging program of TTTD will inspire youths who are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture. To those who are interested in helping farmers, this program will serve as a role model and will stimulate the sense of youths to become more involved in the agriculture sector. As the program could only cover some areas of Southern Shan state, many more youths from different parts of the country are expected to initiate this kind of program which could benefit farmers from rural areas.
For youths with academic backgrounds, the farm record books written down by farmers will become a shred of evidence and an essential source for young researchers who would like to know how farmers in Myanmar do their work. These records will show if farmers from Myanmar are benefitting or not and how youths should be actively participating in certain sectors needed to improve.
This program could also be a motivation for a certain number of young farmers who are having difficulties pursuing their careers in the agriculture sector. As a developing country, many young farmers are facing challenges such as not having access to finance, land, and essential specific skills. Through this kind of program, young farmers will be able to broaden their experiences by communicating with other experienced farmers and there are many opportunities for them to meet donors who are willing to support this industry. More programs of this kind are needed to prove to the youths that this sector is a place of opportunity.
Despite there are many challenges for Myanmar youths to involve in the agriculture sector, there are still many small youth-led organizations like Taung Thu Ta Da which are trying to improve the lives of farmers. The “Corn Seed Program” is also welcoming youths and supporters from around the world who are willing to help farmers. This may seem like a small step for a group of youths but this action could yield great effects on youths and young farmers. Thus, youths from every part of the world should start contributing to the agriculture sector.