With the working age population in the state estimated to rise to 30.4 million by 2021, it is going to be a massive challenge to engage this workforce in gainful activities in the days ahead. Meeting this mammoth challenge will require a two-pronged strategy that focuses as much on skill development as on self-employment. While a lot has been done, both by the Centre and the state government, in the area of skill development in the last few years, self-employment has not really received the kind of attention it deserves. And it is here that AASK expects to step in and fill the gap. The idea is to focus on the village youth and turn them into entrepreneurs, especially in the agriculture and allied sector, who, in turn, will create employment opportunities for many more at the local level. Creating entrepreneurship will be a three-stage exercise: identification of youth based on their interest in and aptitude for a particular skill; training of the selected youths and setting up enterprises.
Exploring Local Resources
With nine agro-climatic zones, Odisha has the potential to be a leader in the production of some high value crops. But the immense possibilities in optimizing production using local resources have not really been explored fully. For example, Nabarangpur district is the biggest producer of maize in Asia but there are hardly any processing units in the district. Dhenkanal and Angul districts produce a large quantity of mangoes. But in the absence of processing units at the local level, value addition has not been possible due to which mangoes are routinely sold at throwaway prices. The commercial potential of kewda in Ganjam and high-quality turmeric in Kandhmal have not been fully explored for the same reason. With its long coastline, Odisha is also a leading producer of marine products. But value addition, processing and marketing of fisheries products remains limited.
Networking with Stakeholders
AASK will consult, collaborate and cooperate with both the Central and state governments to have an appropriate policy framework to facilitate village youth to set up small scale enterprises (SMEs) in the locality in a cluster approach. The initiative can also be linked to big industries having established marketing networks. These industries will be keen to impart relevant, standardized training to village youth for their own benefit as well as to create a value chain. Studies have shown that integrated farming can help raise the economic status of people in rural areas engaged in agriculture and allied activities.