Skill Upgradation for Rural Youth in Agriculture (SURYA)
Beginning in 2017, Syngenta Foundation India launched its SURYA program. Under this program, young people from rural areas are trained to become Agriculture Technology Assistants (ATAs). Technology and extension are the key determinants of productivity in agriculture, and SURYA focuses on instilling the best agronomy practices based on the region’s agro-climatic conditions. The challenge, however, lies in improving farmers' access to the right kind of timely information and then ensuring that farmers adopt the proposed practices. Syngenta Foundation India (SFI) has been successfully implementing a range of models designed to improve the farming practices and livelihoods of resource-poor smallholders. To scale up these models, SFI joins forces with various partners across seven locations trains Agriculture Technology Assistants (ATA's), who typically have some background in agriculture but are unemployed. They are trained to become extension service providers and are usually employed by agri-business companies. The scope of the program includes capacity building of rural youth as ATA's and Agri-Entrepreneurs in addition to offering placement support and link-ups with associated companies.
SURYA is run across seven locations; Nanded, Jawhar, Pune, Ahmednagar. Essentially, the project was started to train youth to be extension agents or Agriculture Technology Assistants (ATAs) and equip them with all the associated skills. The model was built on the idea that from a batch of 25 ATAs, a minimum of 7-8 candidates would be further shortlisted for the AE program. For the effective implementation of the various development projects, there is a demand for efficient “last-mile” agents. SFI aims at training a cadre of rural youth, termed “agri-entrepreneurs”- youth who can provide agricultural services to small-holder farmers. The selected candidates subsequently enroll in an intensive 45-day residential program, from which they later emerge as competent and readily employable Agricultural Technology Assistants, with skills relevant to the region they belong to.
The training is principally structured in a manner that allows students to learn through a variety of interactive ways. 65% of the students’ time is spent in a classroom, wherein they learn through communicating and collaborating, field visits, individual and group assignments, and finally, presentations. 19% of their time is invested in exposure visits, to help them better understand and operate the enterprises they set up. Finally, the last 16% of their time is spent in an AE attachment where they are required to spend time with an established Agri-Entrepreneur in order to understand the practical aspects of serving farmers. The material they cover includes topics such as the region’s agro-climate, soil health, seed and water management, weed and pest control, and the laws and regulations affecting the industry. There is also an emphasis on teaching workplace skills such as communication, interpersonal skills, use of IT and social media, workplace behaviors, and most importantly, the ability to retain a positive attitude and self-confidence through their endeavors. The training is conducted by SFI personnel who are specifically trained to teach rural youth using numerous methodologies. Each center is assigned a minimum of two trainers.
As of December 2019,
SURYA has trained 2145 candidates
325 opted to become AEs, and 145 operate their own enterprises
452 women have completed their training and female participation in agricultural development has grown
243 ATAs were sponsored by the Maharashtra State Government under their UMED Program, of which 210 were women
663 candidates have been placed on campus across 120-agri-business companies