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    Agriculture entrepreneurship opportunities

    September 05, 2019

    Agriculture has an unchanging demand mainly due to its contribution to food security. It is among the key sectors of the economy of any country that interact with other sub-sectors to trigger economic growth, assuage poverty, rural development and reach towards environmental sustainability. Sri Lanka being a predominant agricultural country, its rural economy still relies largely on agriculture. Although the contribution of the agricultural sector to the national economy is decreasing at a rapid pace, the potential contribution and demand of the agricultural sector towards the wellbeing of the rural community and the supply of food for the nation cannot be underestimated.

    At present, the agricultural sector of Sri Lanka is experiencing diverse issues providing negative consequences to the progression and sustainability of the sector. Productivity stagnation, high production cost, marketing issues, food insecurity, resource degradation, health hazards, climate change uncertainties, agrarian poverty, lower product diversification and lower innovativeness are among the key concerns in the current discourse of the agricultural sector. These issues have burgeoned and become more complicated day by day indicating the need for proper remedial measures to achieve the real benefits of agriculture. Undoubtedly, agriculture education is paramount in supporting the development of the agricultural sector while stimulating the inclusive development of the country.

    Agriculture education

    The agriculture education in Sri Lanka has relatively a long history. The Sri Lankan Government has been extending significant sponsorship to uplift the agriculture education over the past decades with the intention of linking education and agriculture to trigger the development process. At present, agriculture faculties in the national university system and agriculture schools of the Agriculture Department are the two main institutes that provide systematic agriculture education in Sri Lanka. In addition, there are certain private sector institutions operating to provide agriculture education.

    In a year, the national university system produces approximately 750 agriculture graduates. Particularly, as in many developing countries, decades back the public sector of Sri Lanka used to absorb the large majority of agriculture graduates which is no longer possible with the shifting of economic priorities and labour market trends in the country. In this context, more strategic focus on linking the agricultural sector, agriculture education and development priorities of the country is needed with a broader development direction to expand the advantages of agriculture education in the country.

    Considering this importance, the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute has conducted a study on investigating the absorption of the recent agriculture graduates into the agricultural sector and their contribution to the agricultural development of the country with the focus on drawbacks prevailing in absorbing and retaining them in this sector.

    From a holistic picture, agriculture graduates show a relatively high employment rate providing a positive contribution to the labour force of the country which should be admired. However, the study found that limited occupational choice is one of the key determinants for the graduates to remain in current employment. Particularly, fewer employment opportunities available for agriculture graduates to provide a direct contribution to agricultural development have lessened their potential contribution.

    The prevailing barriers to accessing public sector occupations that are compatible with their education, such as not conducting competitive exams at the right time, are a source of concern for the recently passed-out graduates. Gender discrimination taking place in recruitment levels particularly in the private sector, hardships and poor facilities when performing job roles can be identified as major impediments that lessen their contribution to the agricultural sector.

    There is a shift in agriculture graduates’ job-orientation towards more lucrative and convenient avenues to a certain extent. The complex individual preferences towards diverse employment avenues and multifaceted socio-economic factors as well as rapid changes in the labour market behaviour are among the major drivers of this paradigm shift. Under these circumstances, available opportunities to utilise the full potential of agriculture graduates particularly for agriculture development are challenging.

    Against this setting, grasping full advantage of their knowledge and expertise to trigger agricultural and national development should be a priority concern. This is mainly because achieving rural, regional and national development goals would be unrealistic without providing serious attention for agricultural development. Further, it is important to note that strengthening the link between agriculture education and agriculture-related development priorities of the country is timely to obtain a fruitful outcome of education.


    The agricultural sector is increasingly becoming less attractive for young people, which has become a global trend, so that they tend to move on to more dynamic and attractive employment sectors. Against this situation, there should be a promising pathway to retain youth in the agriculture sector in a more attractive and meaningful way.

    Entrepreneurship can be identified as one of the promising avenues which allows agriculture graduates to take full advantage of their knowledge, expertise and skills while boosting economic and social development in the country. Evidence shows that the advancement of entrepreneurial activities has resulted in economic prosperity in most developing countries. The term ‘entrepreneurship’ is often recognised as a creative and innovative activity which accepts risks and adapts to a changing environment with the swift changes in business strategies. The term ‘agripreneurship’ is a combination of agriculture and entrepreneurship. In this sense, ‘agripreneurship’ can be considered as an innovative business activity related to agriculture.

    Agripreneurs can drive positive changes in the economy through inventive methods and by serving new markets. Successful agripreneurs can contribute immensely to development of the sector, while uplifting agrarian communities. Improving food supply and nutrition, value addition to underutilised agricultural products or crops, technological development, expanding commercial orientation of farming activities, re-branding agriculture through high-quality products, enhancing the quality of the value chain, and grabbing export market opportunities are among the possible avenues to explore for those young entrepreneurs.

    Further expansion of knowledge and training for entrepreneurship skills to flourish through academic programmes on agriculture would be a favourable foundation to produce agripreneurs to society. As they obtain more comprehensive and meaningful knowledge, their capacity towards agribusiness development could be effectively utilised while realising their own perceived opportunities. Further, young graduates can adapt and use the knowledge gained from various academic modules in innovative ways furthering their capacity to be successful.

    Introducing schemes for agro-entrepreneurship targeting young agriculture graduates with the provision of necessary guidance, a clear pathway, financial facilities and market opportunities together with technological support are important to direct them towards successful business ventures, a move which will fetch mutual benefits for both individuals and the agricultural sector creating a win–win situation. A good intervention can be made with the public–private partnership. Thus, directing young agriculture graduates towards agripreneurship with a policy-level intervention would be a worthy approach to harvest their full potential to expand the agricultural development of the country in the long run.





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