The new century has given birth of new challenges and issues in spite of various revolutions on the global map. Agriculture and allied sectors have been jeopardized by giant problems like climate change, malnutrition, hunger, poverty, unemployment, price fluctuations, water scarcity, shrinking of agriculture lands and population dynamicsto name a few. Innovations in agriculture and new business ventures are needed to let not the green sector become grey. The dilemma is we have not yet explored the potential of nature and people fully. The parts of food plants can be consumed from crown to root but few people know about the nutritional and market value of different underutilized crops and their parts which can be used for multiple purposes. In order to feed billions of people worldwide, these is a dire need to support and strengthen agripreneurship and also promote underutilized crops at the global level.
This long term effort needs attention of public and private partnership with the support of experts, involved in this field. As the population isincreasing, more underutilized crops can be used to feed the future generation by harnessing the potential of agripreneurship. Even, the crops which contain good nutritional values can be promoted inother regions of the world on the basis of apt climatic conditions. In this regard, farmers can start new agriculture businesses in order to earn more and feed the millions. The RAS professionals can motivate the farmers to grow underutilized crops as crops for the future at small scale at the initial level and then can be widely spread through demonstration and other extension education methods.
RAS professionals can become torch bearer in his regard. These professionals can arrange interactive visits of farmers to various agriculture farms and research centers undertaking research on underutilized crops for the future. So that farmers can adopt and adapt easily in their own empirical contexts on the basis of seeing is believing. Similarly, the package of technology (ies) about underutilized crops can also be disseminated widely at the local, national and international level by the help of RAS professionals. An example for such a crop is Moringa, which has been getting popularity at various levels on account of features likeease ofcultivation and good market value.
The market for spices and medicinal plants are growing quickly at the global level and demand is higher than supply. A farmer, particularly young agri-prenuer, who wants to establish a new agribusiness, can take initiative and earn more with fewer inputs. RAS professional who are associatedtothe public or private sector can also identify farmers and young agri-preneursin the area to help them in continuing or startingcultivating a new crop as a profitable business. In this way, the farming community has more sources of income due to agripreneurship and active involvement of young rural blood in the area. Farmers can also have fresh produce at the domestic level along with the benefit of having savings which would have been spent to purchase these spices and plants from the market.
The rural youth can also be engaged to draw the attention of farmers who are about to abandon this profitable business and intend to switch to other sectors. The recent agriculture graduates can be encouraged to adopt underutilized crops as an agrientrepreneurship and also become role models for all other young farmers. As young farmers are literate, risky, innovative, seeking opportunities, knowledgeable, know tricks and tracks of successful business, skilled, trend makers, updated about government policies, solution seekers, well knitted with professional networks, and familiar with handling digital technologies for new agriculture ventures. Thus, this fraction of society can easily become Agri-champions and become models for rest of the farmers.
Digital technologies can also be helpful in promoting and adopting underutilized crops and species at various levels. In this regard, farmers can use social media to share good agriculture practices and also learn from other farmers around the globe. Farmers can use internet search services and other social media to look forand identify the growers at the global level. A beginner can establish links and even ask questions about the production technology and market value of underutilized and medicinal plants. In this way, the potential of green and digital revolutions can be used for making the agriculture more attractive and profitable.
In a nutshell, there is a dire need to promote and strengthen agrientrepreuers ship and underutilized crops for the future in order to fuel the economy and eradicate social issues at the global level. Underutilized crops can be grown on underutilize lands for generating livelihood and making the agriculture sector more profitable than ever. Moreover, it can also be expected that in the long run, development can be judged by the number of agri-innovators and early adopters in the village as compared to the neighboring villages. In addition, the role of RAS professionals in this regard can never be ignored as they are the front line workers and facilitators to make the world prosperous.
Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Rural development consultant and Ex Lecturer-Rural development,
Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, Pakistan