Skills Requirement in Agriculture Sector to meet the future demand of mechanized cultivation,NSDC.
Bangladesh is striving to achieve various major development targets in areas such as poverty, agriculture, unemployment, education, women empowerment, infrastructural development and health. In achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), progress of Bangladesh has been remarkable which is indicated through sustained GDP growth rates of 6 percent and above in recent years. Bangladesh has also been able to bring down the poverty gap ratio to 6.5 against 2015 target of 8.0 (Bangladesh Planning Commission , 2014). Within a total geographic territory of 147,570 square kilometers, the country has a huge population of approximately 160 million. Over time from 1975-2010, the country has lost 33140 hectares of land (Hossain & Islam, 2013). Thus pressure is from two sides: on the one hand population is increasing and on the other cultivable land is decreasing. The country is also in a transition stage from agriculture based to service based livelihood (GDP contribution of agriculture and service sector are 15.1% and 58.3% respectively (The World Factbook, 2014).
Despite such pressures, agricultural progress is praise worthy since the country is almost self sufficient in fulfilling the domestic demand of a huge population. In recent years agricultural sector has not been able to attract the young generation due to socio-economic reasons. Thus, labor shortage is also evident. To meet the extended demand of growing population, it is undoubtedly a major agenda to give a serious attention to agricultural mechanization. Agricultural mechanization can help Bangladesh to address the domestic demand of a huge growing population, ever decreasing trend of cultivable land and finally shortage of agricultural labor skills. Thus, this study was conducted at the initiative of the National Skill Development Council to investigate the skill requirement in agricultural sector to meet the future demand of mechanized cultivation through a nation-wide survey.
The study has five objectives. First it will identify the level of adoption of agricultural mechanization in different divisions of Bangladesh. This stage is designed because the size of the cultivable land, as well as the level of education of the farmers, varies from division to division. Second, it will categorize the usage of agricultural mechanization based on age and size-class of farmers. Third, the willingness of the farmers to adopt modern mechanized tools will be investigated. Fourth, the satisfaction level of farmers will be studied with respect to the availability of labor and skills of the users of modern agricultural tools. Finally, this study will note the perception of existing farmers with regards to the future shortage of skilled labor in using agricultural machineries.
This research was conducted with a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques. To address the research objectives, the study initially reviewed previous literature of relevant discipline. Based on literature review, a structured questionnaire was developed to conduct a nation-wide survey which covered all seven divisions to collect responses of farmers. In this stage, a total number of 1000 respondents were selected through a non-probability sampling technique (combination of purposive and judgment sampling). Response rate was 90.1%. Reliability test was also conducted in this regard. The study trained data collectors and a guideline was developed for the data collectors and distributed accordingly. Questionnaire was distributed after a pretest. The study simultaneously interviewed experts and users of agricultural mechanization. Different statistical and mathematical techniques were used to analyze the data. Recommendations were made separately based on specific findings as well as general policy recommendations.
A dissemination session was held at NSDC before the final submission of the report where experts from various organizations involved with agricultural mechanization and skill development were invited. Comments and feedback of this expert group have been incorporated in this final version of the report submitted to NSDC.
In line with the objectives set by the research initiative, this study found that adoption of technologies in various levels of cultivation is not same in all seven divisions in Bangladesh. It is found that respondents from Chittagong division seems lowest in adoption (35.8%) and adoption rate of respondents from Khulna division (98%) use machineries at some stage of cultivation process. Therefore, this study analyzed three major clusters in terms of adoption rate: high, moderate and relatively low adopter (This study classifies based on relatively high degree user, moderate degree user and relatively lower degree which is Rangpur, Rajshahi and Khulna in group 1, Dhaka and Barisal in group 2, and Sylhet and Chittagong in group 3, respectively). Furthermore, while interviewing the farmers, it was found that there are various factors related with the findings, such as some parts of the country have geographical variations (some parts are hilly and some parts are relatively plain). Infrastructure is another factor of adoption as all kind of machineries like power tiller, shallow machine, and combined harvester etc. require power. Skilled manpower to operate such devices is also an important factor.
The study revealed that most of the young farmers (67%) have learnt cultivation by working with their parents, but still are inclined towards the use of modern mechanized tools. Without proper inclusion of and motivation for the use of modern agricultural tools, the rate of adoption is slow. This tendency is evident as more experienced farmers tend to rely on ancient tools, although these experienced farmers would be able to utilize the modern mechanized tools more tenaciously. It has also seen that this industry is becoming more capital intensive, and in context to the scenario, this study reveals that larger farms tend to indicate a positive inclination toward the use of semi modern mechanized tools.
It is observed in the study that a good percentage of farmers are looking forward to using semi modernized agricultural tools. However, it is also evident that a much clearer study is required to figure out the reasons that is preventing the rest of the farmers from moving forward. Although the use of fully modernized agricultural tools is still below expected levels, the data sheds a positive light that could be used to improve it to a point that is acceptable in such a developing country.
The complexity to maintain modern mechanized agricultural tools in proper working condition affects farmers’ choices heavily. Therefore, these tools are often associated with skilled farmers. The difficulty to find repair shops can also cause worry to the farmers. Moreover, the repairers do not have proper and complete knowledge, and neither do they want to train others. The repairing maestros, most often, fail to address the guidelines of the producers of machineries, and also fail to meet a constant timeline for repairs. This inefficiency greatly increases farmers’ reluctance to move to more modernized tools.
The use of modern technologies is uneven across divisions. Since the benefits of using modern machinery outweigh the difficulty, it is necessary to ensure that all the divisions are at least using some level of technology. This would improve the ability of the Government to monitor and make adjustments as necessary. Therefore some areas will require intensive training and motivation in that regard. More training schedules targeted toward the more experienced farmers can yield a better result. This is because the youth are already inclined toward the use of modern machineries. Proper motivation and regular updates can ensure that the use of modern machineries is integrated in everyday use. The smaller farms require further strengthening since larger farms are already more financially capable of handling modern machineries. The Government can take numerous initiatives to ensure this. Currently, a lot of farmers are looking forward to using modernized machinery, and thus, it is imperative that they should be motivated and provided access to such machineries. An increase in the number of more capable training centers can address the issue of unavailability of skilled labor. Moreover, technology can also play a big role and take this initiative to a new level. The current market situation needs to be addressed as well, as this study reveals that availability of skilled labors are diminishing at an alarming rate and could cause concern in the future. Maintenance of the machineries is a big issue, and setting up central intelligence hubs can also greatly solve this situation.
Since the availability of labor is a huge issue that requires addressing, this study has suggested numerous incentives to increase the number of workers in the market. First, since the wages received by the labors involved in agricultural works is quite low, an increase is suggested. Secondly, providing licenses can help the government to keep track of the workers. Finally, mandatory training can induce a feeling of worthiness among the workers and help them to have a long career.
The skill needs in agriculture also requires attention. Inclusion of intensive agricultural courses in schools and colleges can help educate the general masses. General training courses for laborers in TVET institutes run by the government is necessary where they can be certified according to the level of their skills. A free source of information of mechanical agricultural tools can motive the farmers further. Moreover, government should induce the participation of NGO and the private sector. To increase the number of maestros and workshops, a number of steps can be taken by the government, as identified by this study. To increase the flow of knowledge the Government can also use various technologies like radio, television to spread awareness and general information to concerned stakeholders.