In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sukomakmur area in Kajoran, Magelang, Central Java, is increasingly popular among young people. This vegetable farming area at the foot of Mount Sumbing does indeed present a charming panorama. The majority of visitors are millennials who want to share photos with the background of the vegetable field.
Dwiki Ainun Najib, a local youth, sees the potential for doing business in the midst of a trend. He is one of several amateur photographers who offer photo services for millennial children.
“On Sundays, on average, seven people or groups take photos. Most now bring their own camera or use cellphones,” Dwiki told VOA.
With a Canon 60D camera, Dwiki charges only IDR 2,000 for each photo selected. Service users may request as many photos as they want, before then choosing the one that is considered suitable. They then transferred the photos via smartphones.
A group of teenagers asked Dwiki to take their picture in the middle of a field of green onions. Dwiki knew very well, every style they had to demonstrate from one shot to the next.
“We came from Klaten,” they said.
The four teenagers traveled more than 70 kilometers by motorbike just to take pictures. Even though they also live in an area rich in rice fields. They still feel the need to come to this tourist location to fill their social media account pages with photos of vegetable fields in the background.
Uniquely, although it is filled with young people, none of the farmers in the agricultural tourism area are under the age of 30.
Alifudin, one of the farmers there just laughed when asked about the absence of young people working on the land. The man in his 40s when he was young also migrated to work in Yogyakarta. He just came home and farmed, the last few years.
“It’s a bit difficult because it’s also not certain that every day there is work in the fields,” said Alifudin.
Indonesia Threatened by Farmers Crisis
The millennial generation does have a low interest in the agricultural sector. According to calculations by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), if conditions like this continue, Indonesia is predicted to run out of farmers in 2063.
The prediction is based on long-term data from farmers in Indonesia. According to Bappenas, in 1976 the proportion of workers working as farmers or other workers in the agricultural sector reached 65.8 percent. That figure shrank to 28 percent in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) once conducted a survey which recorded that the average age of Indonesian farmers is currently 52 years. On the other hand, only three percent of the younger generation are interested in becoming farmers.
Data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the number of Indonesian farmers in 2019 was 33.4 million people. Of that number, about 91 percent or 30.4 million farmers, are over 40 years old and the majority are in the 50-60 year range. The number of farmers aged in the range of 20-39 years is only eight percent, or about 2.7 million people. In the small number of young farmers, BPS recorded a decline every year.
All of these data support each other which illustrates that in the future, the number of farmers in Indonesia will decrease. One of the main factors is that currently, millennials are not involved in this sector.
Farmers Avoid Similar Professions
In rice fields or fields nowadays, it is difficult to find young farmers, especially those from the millennial group. At least that is experienced by Agus Subagyo, an activist from Omah Tani Yogyakarta who provides assistance to farmers in the area.
“In the fields, the only young ones are Agricultural Extension Officers (PPL), if they are really young, because they are agricultural graduates who were recruited when they were young. But it’s a state official. But if the farmers are really old, they are really old,” said Agus.
One of the dominant factors that make millennials avoid the farming profession is precisely because of pressure from their families, if their parents are farmers. Omah Tani has been working in Yogyakarta for a dozen years, Agus found the fact that farmers’ parents tend to recommend their children to work in other sectors.
“Parents who are farmers will definitely forbid their children to farm. Because this story in Indonesia is called a farmer, both from the upstream side, how to plant, fertilizer and land, including downstream crazy,” he added.
The ban is considered reasonable because there is no certainty in the profession of a farmer. Agus said that when harvesting, the majority of any commodity prices fell drastically. Farmers’ struggle for months finally ended in losses.
The government, said Agus, has done many things except from the side of the trade system. Since the beginning, for example, there has been seed assistance for farmers, land management training, fertilizer subsidies and others. But it all stopped there. After harvest, the price is determined by the market and usually falls. All the government subsidy programs do not mean much.
In the environment of corn farmers in Gunungkidul who Omah Tani has fostered, for example, farmers harvest corn before it bears fruit, and sell it as animal feed. The decision is considered to provide more certainty of income, because the results are clear. Meanwhile, if you wait until the harvest, the price of corn is uncertain.
“If conditions are like this, it is impossible for young people to want to become farmers, and parents who are now farmers will prohibit their children from becoming farmers,” added Agus.
According to Agus, in addition to all existing programs, the main key at this time is to provide price certainty for agricultural products. The state must be willing to set the purchase price of commodities from farmers. So that farmers know how much chili, rice, corn or cassava costs, since they decide to plant.
“If there is money. If the results are good. Automatically young people will want to become farmers. There is no need for complicated programs,” he added.
Ministry of Agriculture Mobile
The Ministry of Agriculture, of course, does not remain silent about this condition. Quoted from the ministry’s official statement, Minister of Agriculture Syahrul Yasin Limpo mentioned this issue when giving a public lecture at the Agricultural Development Polytechnic (Polbangtan) Medan, Thursday (3/3).
The Minister of Agriculture assessed that the millennial generation has a big role in agricultural development in the future.
“Agriculture is a future that is definitely needed. Agriculture is not only rice, not only corn, not only cassava, agriculture is not only coffee. But many derivatives can be produced from one commodity. If so learn it,” said Minister of Agriculture Syahrul.
Minister of Agriculture Syahrul said, three for the younger generation in agricultural development. All three are frames academic intellectual or agricultural science, agenda management to increase capacity and increase literacy, as well as good behavior and character
“Intellectual Academic Frames no longer limited, because the world is open with the growth of increasingly sophisticated technology and informatics. Even now people can learn only through gadgetsSo, the most important capital you must have is your will and enthusiasm to move forward,” said Syahrul
Syahrul asked Indonesian millennials not to lose to millennial farmers from Europe and America in the future.
The Ministry of Agriculture itself is boosting efforts to attract millennials to this sector through a number of efforts. The Agency for Extension and Development of Agricultural Human Resources (BPPSDMP), for example, in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has opened the Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment Support Services (YESS) program. This is a program for the younger generation to increase their knowledge and capacity in agriculture.
Some of the activities in the YESS program are Competitive Grants and Young Ambassadors. The Competitive Grant aims to encourage young farmers to build agricultural businesses and the rural economy. Young Ambassadors is the selection and training of young Indonesian farmers or entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector to become YESS Program Ambassadors.
Every young entrepreneur in agriculture aged 17-35 years has the opportunity to become a Young Ambassadors. His job is to promote the world of agriculture to improve the image and motivation of young people to be involved in this sector, especially through social media, talk show, road show and a number of other publications. [ns/ah]