How do you ensure that young people stay in the countryside?


Government policies must be transformative and industry must row in the same direction towards a more digital, fairer and more sustainable system

The generational change in agricultural and livestock farms in our country is one of the biggest challenges for the agri-food sector in the next two decades. How can we convince the young people of empty Spain not to go to the cities, where ‘a priori’ it seems as if they have more opportunities and a horizon for the future? How do we encourage and help them so that they can continue to run family businesses or start a business in a rural environment that in some cases has poor access to services and technology?

According to the report ‘The contribution of the food and beverage industry to the empty Spain’, promoted by the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) and Cajamar Caja Rural, is the food supply and beverage industry allows to settle a rural population of 834,737 people in less populated areas, ie 17% of the population of empty Spain, with a total of 305,424 jobs. We contribute in terms of economic activity, employment, attracting investment, revitalization and digitization of the territory, contribution to the public treasury, maintenance of infrastructure and services or gastronomic claim and sustainable management.

All these data from the report are on the one hand a cause for satisfaction, but at the same time they force us to face with more objectivity, if possible, the harsh realities of the Spanish countryside, with few young people and women, with a majority of producers on the brink of retirement, with a shortage of children, with better access to services and technology… The agri-food companies have a double responsibility, precisely because in many cases they are located within the vast perimeter of empty Spain.

The new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) considers generational change as one of the nine specific objectives and pays particular attention to youth, women and training. The proposal for the Spanish strategic plan, currently under review by Brussels, will increase support for young farmers by 57%, to EUR 220 million per year. But the CAP alone is not enough to face the threat of depopulation. Government policies must be transformative, although industry must row in the same direction in the coming years towards a more digital, equitable and environmentally, economically and socially sustainable food system and agricultural sector.

As expressed in the Spanish draft plan for the CAP, the retention of young talent is an important lever for which it is essential to raise the level of training of young agricultural managers, “it has been shown that young people with better professional qualifications also have farms more profitable” . The Pascual Scholarship Program for Children of Ranchers and Farmers is our latest initiative that deepens this integrative and educational vision, another pioneering example of strengthening long-awaited outreach and helping to strengthen the socio-economic fabric of rural areas. These scholarships are for the children of our agricultural suppliers who are pursuing a technical or professional training career related to animal husbandry to continue the activity on the farm. Quite a challenge that we are happy to take on.

As companies, we have a great opportunity to demonstrate through action our commitment to establishing populations in rural areas, further encouraged by the promotion of the Next Generation Funds. It is essential, as we do, to work on the training and education of our ranchers and farmers through audits, manuals and models aimed at improving the hygienic and hygienic quality and efficiency of their farms. Also with animal welfare programs and consultancies, projects to reduce environmental impact and advanced ICT tools to manage and order information from farms, always achieving an abandonment rate of less than half the Spanish average.

But technology and automation are not only a way to advance agricultural activity ‘per se’, but can also improve the quality of life of ranchers and farmers. The digital literacy of the elderly, connectivity and the roll-out of broadband in rural areas contribute to better health, training and leisure for farm workers engaged in their activity. Teleworking, telemedicine, teletraining, smart tourism… Why not a farmer who manages the irrigation with his mobile or a farmer who controls the milking robot from his home? Or a tilt detection system for agricultural machinery connected to 112?

In all this way of working, learning plays a decisive role. Cultivating knowledge ultimately produces the best results, whether in the city or in the countryside, let’s not forget.

Source: La Verdad


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