The Ministry of Agriculture Development has planned targeted programmes to help youth s engage in commercial agricultural activities this fiscal year.
The ministry has earmarked Rs 120 million for the programmes, which will select 1,750 young farmers in livestock, vegetables and cash crop production. In addition, 1,000 individuals will be given a 51-day training on rural agriculture.
A senior ministry official said the proposed programmes will select 1,000 farmers in vegetable production, 400 in mushroom and beekeeping (apiculture), 200 in fishery, and 200 in livestock.
The ministry is currently preparing a guideline for the programme. â€œAfter the guideline is endorsed, we will seek proposals from young farmers and select them based on merit,â€ said the official. The farmers selected will be eligible for loans without collateral and other facilities.
The proposed 51-day training programme is aimed at enhancing entrepreneurial and agriculture technology skills of a network of rural farmers in places where government technicians are not present. â€œThe pilot programme will be continued if it yields good results,â€ the official said.
As youth unemployment is one of the major problems facing the country, ministry officials said the programme aims to stem labour outflows that have severely hit the farm sector. â€œWe expect the programme will retain young people in the agricultural sector and also uproot the traditional farming system,â€ the official said.
As the government has also set a 5 percent growth target in the agriculture sector this fiscal year, youth participation in the sector will be crucial. Recently, Agriculture Minister Tek Bahadur Thapa Gharti had said the participation of the youth s in the farm sector has dropped sharply mainly because it has become highly unattractive due to high production cost and labour-intensive nature.
Gharti said the success of selected farmers could motivate other young people to take agriculture as a career. The agriculture sector in Nepal is passing through its worst times due to the least government priority.
Due to a late monsoon and fertilizer shortages, agricultural growth slowed to an all-time low of 1.26 percent in the last fiscal year, down from 4.98 percent before. It adversely affected the countryâ€™s economic growth that shrank to 3.56 percent, the lowest since the fiscal year 2006-07 when it grew 2.75 percent.
Low production also increased the number of food deficit districts to 33 from the previous 27 and forced Nepal to import rice worth an alarming Rs 13.67 billion in the last fiscal year.
The government has also introduced a subsidy scheme on wheat seeds for the first time in its effort to boost production by promoting the use of improved seeds.