“Young people lose interest in agriculture,” I read in an article written by a journalist who is a correspondent in Horqueta, Concepción. The correspondent stated that “peasants in this district are sorry that their children no longer love the country fields, because they do not engage in agriculture, they look for other trades or they study in universities “.
Peasant family farming is not easy and the risks are great. Income is uncertain and unpredictable, production depends on rain or drought, prices fluctuate too much, and profit sometimes happens, and sometimes it does not.
It is not surprising then that young people do not want to dedicate themselves to the type of agriculture their parents are dedicated to. Who can blame them? It is not a prestigious activity. Producing and selling cassava or beans is not a high-value activity in the modern economy. It is a physically hard job. And for many kids living in the country means being away from the comforts of the city: cell phone, transportation, television, educations, and parties.
One solution could be to change the focus. Instead of promoting only crops, emphasis could be placed on rural entrepreneurship. To do this, the farm family must first determine how much income it wants/should generate. If, for example, it considers that to live minimally well they need to generate Gs. 2,500,000 a month and the income crops generate only Gs. 1,500,000 a month, they must find out what additional activities could generate the additional monthly million. Make and sell bijouterie; fixing motorcycles or selling empanadas would help a lot. The important thing here is the diversification and the consequent stability of income.
Here, the national agrarian policy is key. Education eludes and overlooks the most important thing: teaching how to earn money in the country field. Young people are not fools and do not want to have the same level of life as their parents. They aspire to a better life. If rural employment is a priority, what skills does the education system provide to achieve this? If it is sought for young farmers to be integrated into modern agriculture, are there options for internships in medium and large companies?
To convince young Paraguayan people to stay in the country fields and dedicate themselves to agriculture, we must make sure that it is clearly advantageous. Our food security depends on it. There is a place for small-scale agriculture and for large-scale agriculture. Small-scale agriculture should not be pre-modern, but rather technified and adjusted to what the market requires.
Ultimately, it will be rural youth who must establish what are the minimum conditions they need to stay and produce in the country fields.
Martín Burt, PhD
Executive Director of Fundación Paraguaya