Youth participation seen as ‘crucial’ for future of Greater Mekong agriculture


Agriculture in the Mekong

Agriculture must embrace digitalization and technology to secure its future and attract more young people to participate in the industry, according to panelists at a seminar organized by the Asian Development Bank.

“The exodus of young people from rural areas is a crisis for hundreds of thousands of villages in the Greater Mekong Sub-region,” said Andrew Bartlett, an adviser with the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service, in a keynote address to the seminar. “We must engage with young women and men in developing safe and climate-friendly value chains that will provide them with food, jobs and income.”

The seminar was part of the 19th Annual Meeting of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region Agriculture Working Group organized by the Asian Development Bank (AfDB). The meeting focused on climate change in the context of the water-food-energy nexus and was held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from June 21-23. Participants included government officials, agribusiness representatives and development organizations from Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Youth participation is imperative, not just good if we want to develop sustainable agriculture,” said Don Tan, general affairs director of agricultural e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, during the panel on youth participation in agriculture. . “We need to inject new ideas and technological solutions into agriculture. Young people bring vitality and creativity.

Pinduoduo is a leading agricultural platform in China. In 2020, it processed $42 billion in agriculture-related transactions on its online marketplace. According to the company, it has over 800 million annual active users and has helped over 16 million farmers sell their produce through its platform.

One of its key initiatives is to hold an annual smart farming competition to encourage young agricultural researchers to develop practical, cost-effective technology that can help smallholder farmers improve their livelihoods. Its “New Farmer” program trains young entrepreneurs to start and run their own agricultural businesses online, which has helped create jobs in rural communities and connect less tech-savvy farmers to the digital economy.

The focus on promoting climate-smart agriculture comes as food demand in the Greater Mekong sub-region, which has an estimated population of 340 million in 2016, is expected to increase by at least 25% by 2050 based on demographic projections, according to the AfDB. The increase is likely to be even higher when taking into account rising income levels.

Rising food demand will create significant challenges as water availability is expected to drop significantly due to increasing climate variability, according to the AfDB. This highlights the urgent need to effectively manage the water-food-energy nexus.

During the panel on youth involvement in agriculture, Mayuree Boonyasenekul, a Thai agricultural officer overseeing youth development in agriculture, said that “to help in the development of farmers, it is important to focus on the farmer-centered learning, designed in collaboration with leaders like their colleagues and coaches.”

For Christamol Sutawong of Young Smart Farmers Thailand, one of the main obstacles to the adoption of IoT and drone technology in agriculture is the perception of older generations of farmers that it is expensive and time-consuming. time to see the returns on investment.

Lyhour Heang, from Impact Hub Phnom Penh in Cambodia, spoke about Dakdam’s incubation program for promising agricultural startups. The nine teams in the nine-month program directly created 37 jobs, benefited 4,870 people and saw average revenue growth of 40% after joining the program.

First published on: July 05, 2022, 04:44 IST


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