In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Genesis of Agriclinics and Agribusiness Centres 2. Aim of the Scheme 3. Framework
Genesis of Agriclinics and Agribusiness Centres:
In India through 32 agricultural universities and 4 deemed universities around 12,000 graduates in agriculture and veterinary sciences are passing out every year whereas only 2000 are getting employment in government and private sectors? Most of them go unemployed or search for jobs in private sectors or find avenues for self-employment.
This is happening for many years in the recent past. With the announcement of the scheme on “Agriclinics and agribusiness centres” by Govt., of India, it is now possible to utilize the potential of this large reservoir of unemployed agricultural graduates as private extension service providers (PESPs).
Agriculture is a key sector of Indian economy and plays crucial role in the livelihood of rural people. The development, of trade, commerce and services in rural areas will depend on demand base arising from agriculture growth, faster industrialization and economy. The open as well as competitive agribusinesses take a pivotal place with its linkages to the world market.
In this direction, a large pool of young agricultural graduates can provide a platform to establish a world market as well as the efficient services to farming community. The entrepreneurship development among the agricultural graduates is very essential to enable them to take up new ventures relating to agriculture.
The entrepreneurial development programme (EDP) for agricultural graduates has three stages, viz.:
1. Pre-training—identification and selection of potential entrepreneurs.
2. Training of potential entrepreneurs, and
3. Post-training support and follow-up services (hand-holding facility).
Ideally speaking, separate training programmes have to be evolved to suit to the varying needs of different target groups. The justification for training is threefold ― Firstly, to reinforce latent entrepreneurial spirit and to channelise it into new ventures, secondly, to build up confidence of ‘first timers’ and thirdly to equip them to manage the units more successfully.
The Government of India recently announced the National Agricultural Policy which accords a very high priority in the areas, viz., application of frontier sciences, adequate and timely supply of quality inputs, strengthening of research and extension linkages and a broad base extension system to achieve a growth rate of more than 4% per annum in agricultural output.
This gave an insight to launch a scheme for setting up of agriclinics and agribusiness. The scheme “Agriclinics and Agribusiness Centres by Agricultural Graduates” has been formulated by the Small Farmer Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), New Delhi. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) through its different branches is providing the financial assistance under the system. The National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad is coordinating in organizing the training programme through selected institutes in the country.
The primary aim of launching the scheme is to supplement the extension network to accelerate the process of technology transfer to farmers; providing supplementary sources of inputs supply and services to needy farmers (for which farmers by and large presently depend upon state agencies) and providing gainful employment to agricultural graduates in new emerging areas in agricultural sectors.
The salient features of the programme are:
(i) The participants should be graduate in agricultural science,
(ii) Should intend to start the agriclinic or agribusiness,
(iii) Should undergo two months residential training,
(iv) Providing free lodging and boarding facilities to participants,
(v) Covering the contents relating to the financial and technical management, and
(vi) Exposing the participants to the real agripreneur’s situation.
The project would provide the opportunity to take up the scheme to be stated as agriclinics and agribusiness by agricultural graduates either individually or on joint/groups basis. The outer ceiling for the cost of project by individual would be Rs.10 lakhs and for the project by group would be Rs.50 lakhs.
An ambitious yet pragmatic scheme of “Agriclinics and Agribusiness Centres” was launched on April 9, 2002. Being a centrally sponsored scheme, it has revolutionized the thinking in agricultural research, extension, and marketing and in agriculture itself. Today’s agriculture is witnessing commercialization and diversification at very rapid pace.
Commercial agriculture needs more investment, high technology and various inputs which is opening up new opportunities for agribusiness. Entrepreneurship development, innovation and value addition, processing and marketing outlets through agriclinics and agribusiness centres are going to make present extension system more responsive to farmer’s needs, dynamic and rural employment oriented.
Aim of the Scheme:
The programme aims at creating job producers rather than job seekers in agriculture sector. The scheme of agriclinics and agribusiness centres intends to provide financial assistance to unemployed agricultural graduates in terms of loan to launch agriclinics or agribusiness centres.
Agriclinics are envisaged to provide expert services and advice to farmers on cropping practices, technology dissemination, crop protection from pests and diseases, market trends and prices of various crops in the markets and also clinical services for animal health as well as consultancy services for animal husbandry and dairying which would ultimately enhance the productivity of crops/animals.
Thus, on the one hand, this scheme is bound to stimulate the agricultural growth and development; on the other hand it will tackle the growing problem of unemployment among graduates in agriculture/veterinary/animal sciences and other allied areas. With the diversification and modernization of agricultural practices, there is need to augment support and extension services for agriculture and its allied fields.
For this purpose, a scheme for setting up agriclinics and agribusiness centres by graduates in agriculture/veterinary/dairying and an allied field has been launched with the support of NABARD. Agribusiness centres are envisaged to provide input supply, farm equipments on hire and other similar services. The Agriclinics centres would render consultancy services package of practices and clinical services for animal health, soil testing, and protection of plants from pests and diseases, etc.
The scheme will strengthen transfer of technology and extension services and also provide self-employment opportunities to technically trained professionals in agriculture and its allied areas. Loans on attractive terms would be provided by banks, with reference from NABARD.
Finance Minister in his budget speech in 2001-02 announced “a scheme for financing and setting up of agriclinics and agribusiness centres by agricultural graduates has been formulated by NABARD. The scheme aims at supplementing the existing extension network to accelerate the process of technology transfer to agriculture and providing supplementary sources of input supply and services for which farmers by and large presently depend upon state agencies”.
In order to accelerate the diffusion of agricultural technology there is a need for:
1. Supplementing the efforts of Govt., extension system to accelerate the process of technology transfer in agriculture.
2. Supplementary sources of input supply and services for which by and large farmers presently depend upon public sector agencies.
This scheme would lead to multi-sourced extension services and ensure input supply and support services on commodity basis.
This scheme will supplement existing extension and technical support systems because of following reasons:
1. Government is not equipped for rendering location specific specialized crop-wise advice.
2. Field level staffs are neither exclusively available for extension work nor adequately qualified and trained.
3. Public sector input supply agencies are not able to cope with the needs of fast transforming and accelerated pace of agricultural production.
4. Specialized agri-services (e.g. soil and input testing, maintenance and repairs, seed/agro-processing, agricultural insurance, technology information, post-harvest management, etc.).
These gaps can be filled by qualified private entrepreneurs:
1. The annual out-turn of graduates in agriculture and an allied subject is around 12,000.
2. The intake in post-graduate programmes is 5500, leaving about 6500 graduates of which about 2000 are able to find employment, both in government and in the private sector.
3. Thus, a huge qualified manpower of around 10,000 graduates every year is available for supporting agricultural production process, if viable business opportunities are made available.
Framework of the Scheme:
Extension of equal opportunities to all eligible agricultural graduates to undertake economically viable ventures in identified areas through a network of agriclinics and agribusiness centres wherein the applicant graduate would be a stakeholder.
1. The scheme will provide opportunities for self-employment to agricultural graduates (in agriculture and allied activities).
2. The scheme will promote investment in agriculture and allied activities and create the support services required by the farmers and help in the application of productivity enhancing technologies in their areas of operation.
3. The NABARD through its system will facilitate bank credit for this purpose on priority sector lending terms.
4. Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India has envisaged extending credit linked back-ended subsidies for identified ventures. The subsidy is presently under consideration.
5. Funding of the scheme at present will be according to guidelines issued by NABARD.
6. SFAC will arrange training for 6/8 weeks duration free of cost to those who apply for loan under this scheme.
7. The training programme will comprise of entrepreneurship and business management training as well as skill improvement and propagation in the chosen area of activity.
8. The bank credit, as per the scheme, will be extended to the entrepreneurs on specific terms and conditions only on completion of training programme.
9. To begin with, a programme of supporting 5,000 ventures per year with investment up to Rs.10 lakhs per venture has been envisaged.
10. Group venture ceiling is Rs. 50 lakhs for a group of five, in which one could be a management graduate.
In order to enhance viability of the ventures, agricultural graduates may also take up the projects in agriculture and allied areas along with agriclinics and agribusiness centres. Any graduate in agriculture or allied fields are eligible to avail the scheme. The project may be taken up by agricultural graduate individually or on joint/group basis involving maximum five entrepreneurs. The group could also involve a member who is a management graduate or persons with experience in business development and management.
Agriclinics and agribusiness ventures could provide specialized agri-services in the following areas:
i. Soil and water quality cum inputs testing laboratories (with advanced analytical equipments, some including atomic absorption spectrophotometers, etc.).
ii. Crop protection services, including pest surveillance, diagnostic and control services (with culture rooms, autoclaves, microscopes, ELISA kits, etc. for detection of plant pathogens including viruses, fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and insect pests).
iii. Micro-propagation including through plant tissue culture labs and hardening units.
iv. Maintenance, repairs and custom hiring of agricultural implements and machinery including micro-irrigation systems (Sprinkler and drip).
v. Seed processing units.
vi. Setting up of vermiculture units, production of bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides, and other bio-control agents.
vii. Setting up of Apiaries (bee-keeping) and honey and bee product’s processing units.
viii. Provision of extension consultancy services.
ix. Facilitation and agency of agricultural insurance services.
x. Hatcheries and production of fish fingerlings for aquaculture.
xi. Provision of livestock health cover, setting up of veterinary dispensaries and services including frozen semen banks and liquid nitrogen supply.
xii. Setting up of information technology Kiosks in rural areas for access to various agriculture related portals.
xiii. Feed processing and testing units.
xiv. Value addition centres.
xv. Setting up of cool chain from the farm level onwards including small rural cold storage units.
xvi. Post-harvest management centres for sorting, grading, standardization, storage and packaging.
xvii. Setting up of metallic/non-metallic storage structures (group activity).
xviii. Retail marketing outlets for processed agri-products.
xix. Rural marketing dealerships of farm inputs and outputs.
xx. Other activities like mushroom production, dairy farming, etc., too may be undertaken.
xxi. Any combination of two or more of the above viable activities along with any other economically viable activity selected by the graduates, which is acceptable to the Bank.
Implementation of the Scheme:
With the success of an innovative approach for entrepreneurship promotion in agriculture, “Network of agriclinics and agribusiness centres by Agricultural Graduates Scheme” of the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture being implemented by SFAC, New Delhi and MANAGE, Hyderabad has covered different regions of the whole country.
The majority of the population in India is dependent on agriculture and allied occupations. In view of the increasing population and reducing opportunities in rural areas, the problem of unemployment has become severe among educated rural youths. In rural areas, since 25 years, majority of the educated young people came from agriculture community or background, but due to many reasons they have not been able to compete for available jobs, which demand specialized skills and knowledge. Even in their attempts to set up small entrepreneurial activities in non-farm sectors they face many problems generally not encountered by such youths in urban areas.
All these rural youths can now be supported for new opportunities of entrepreneurship in business activities related to agriculture. These rural youths have the basic understanding of agriculture, which can be utilized for promotion of business enterprises revolving around agricultural activities.
Most of the unemployed youths are also willing to take up self-employment an activity which is a definite positive sign. With support also coming from the Government, only small efforts with appropriate linkages can help them to be gainfully employed as agripreneurs.
It is now also realized that the agriculture during the last 10 years has been exploitative in nature. This has resulted in increased cost of cultivation. The solution to this problem can be provided by giving technologies which can improve on-farm-fertility management for the farmers. The recent development in biotechnology for agriculture is now offering many new innovative options to help the farmers in increasing their net income. The agribusiness enterprises would thus be able to provide linkages for processing for value addition.
The scheme of “agriclinics and agribusiness centres” has completed the first cycle of training programme successfully. It has already met the main objectives namely supplementing general public extension services while providing specialized extension services to farmers. In the process, it has created self-employment opportunities for unemployed agricultural graduates.
The scheme has exploded many myths during its first cycle of training programme. More than 112 success stories have been recorded as a positive outcome of first phase of this scheme. It disproved the myth that agricultural graduates are waiting for government jobs forever and farmers are not in a position to pay for their services.
Generally, the strategies suggested for entrepreneurship development amongst unemployed agricultural graduates consist of stimulatory, supportive and sustaining activities. The stimulatory activities refer to all such activities related to creating entrepreneurial awareness and entrepreneurial motivation. For creating entrepreneurial awareness amongst unemployed agriculture graduates and motivating them as agribusiness operators, vigorous efforts should be made by all concerned agencies in coordinated manner.