The problem of the field is not the lack of young people

The problem of the field is not the lack of young people

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By Gustavo Duch

Txetxu Núñez, a cattle rancher with more than 60 years of accumulated youth and a long union history in the Basque Country, shares his point of view on the current situation of agriculture and what he considers essential to favor new facilities that transform the rural world. Throughout this article, opinions given by young people are highlighted who, following training courses of the EHNE union in Bizkaia, are making agriculture their bet for the future.

The incorporation of young people in the field is possible, we demonstrate it.

Although it may seem the opposite and the administration hides itself to do nothing in a supposed lack of interest of the youth, the agrarian activity excites many young people. The real problems to rebuild the sector are other and that is what must be analyzed.

The need for vocation

In any case, neither is number or proportion the key factor. The first question would be: when we dedicate ourselves to agriculture, are we what we want to be or are we because of the business we generate or do we want to generate? The fundamental element to take into account is that, to face the current moment and move towards food sovereignty, youth with a vocation is required.

We do not have to dramatize with the cliché that the work in the field is very hard and sacrificing. In some cases it is, but it is also a fact that in agriculture it is easy to achieve a sufficient income to live with dignity, but almost impossible to get rich.

Therefore, it is true that, for these and other characteristics, better or worse, one of the requirements for a serious, satisfactory and long-term dedication in the agricultural sector is that you like the field: the vocation. Because, despite this insistence that everywhere cried out on the need to become "professionals in agriculture", agricultural entrepreneurs, etc., we have to defend that our dedication, in reality, exercised with the maximum responsibility, is a lot more than a job or a job, it is a way of life. And a way of life remains solid on a conscious decision, and on the constant perception of being transcending the local sphere, since our dedication and work will be part of a global effort.

The first conclusion at this point is, then, that in the current moment of crisis the first sector can appear as a good alternative for young people, unemployed, etc. which is positive for both parties, but without the aforementioned vocation it will be difficult to ensure the success of new ventures.

I have always been in anti-developmental collectives and I wanted to do something that would fulfill me, seek a different way of life, it was saturating me. He was looking for political coherence.

I was working in El Salvador, as a cooperant, and I realized that the problems were the same here and there. When I returned I thought that I did not need to go anywhere to "cooperate". I have left another job to do this because it is a tool to change things.

I was also abroad, in Ecuador, and I saw that the problem is here: the first world is eating the other world. You have to lead a more sustainable life in all areas.

Commitment and conviction: true professionalism

The need for young people to find their place in rural areas to build a new agricultural sector from the point of view of Food Sovereignty is urgent and agroecological production models, on a small and local scale, for sale to nearby population, they are economically viable in many experiences already underway throughout the territory.

The key to this viability is autonomy, understanding autonomy not as individualism or isolation, but as efficiency in the processes. Diversification must be fundamental, simple handling and, very importantly, cooperation with other projects must be sought, sharing, mutually supporting each other, making optimal use of resources and collectivizing infrastructures. It must go against the classic competitiveness, a value popularized by capitalism.

In the search for this autonomy, the ecological is important, but understood in a comprehensive way, far from normative and reductionist concepts designed for an export agriculture. Certification becomes dispensable when values ​​such as trust are recovered and strengthened through direct contact with producers, thus eliminating costs and bureaucratic obstacles.

By working for people you have a commitment to a face, to a person you know. If you work in a factory, the commitment is with someone you don't see.

I have always led an austere life. Now I am continuing a productive project of another person and I am lucky to already have the infrastructure. In the end, because of my way of thinking, I did not want help from the institutions and I sought support from friends for a greenhouse, people who know how to weld, who know about construction ...

People from the cities come to see what can be done because they have lost their jobs. But the question is, what would they do if they were called back from the company? Because this job is a compromise.

The problem of accessing land

In agriculture, the lack of productive structures to join translates into the difficulty of having or accessing land, and this is the first barrier to new facilities. There is much written about access to land, it is an old problem for our sector, but, again, it should be noted that there are more than enough agricultural lands waiting to be cultivated. It is the lack of political will on the part of the administrations that makes it extremely difficult to match young people who need land and land that need young people. The land banks or similar figures that exist are receiving and accumulating land and farms, but there is a lack of mechanisms to deliver them at affordable costs, within real viability plans, and there is also a lack of training and support to the installation.

When we think of incorporating young people into the countryside, we imagine new people in new activities or lands. But we also have to attend to those who pick up the baton from their family or from retired people and, in that change, modify the productive system they receive, de-intensify it. This is something that should be promoted by the administration, as has been done in places like Denmark. Under some kind of agreement, farms of older people, suffocated by the demands of the market, could be transferred to young people in a new agricultural model. A good aid plan in this sense would ensure that in a single action, land would be provided to young people and farms without a future would be transformed towards the agroecological model.

Because it is a fact that industrial agriculture mistreats the peasantry and society, we see it daily: indebtedness, prices that do not cover costs, abandonment, despair, etc. De-intensification restores dignity, offers better financial results and more free time, something important for young people. These are probably the reasons why the new peasantry says without hesitation that 'they would like their sons and daughters to dedicate themselves to this', as opposed to the fathers and mothers who were looking at all costs for them to find work in the factory or leave. to live in the city.

With the consumer group to which we sell at the beginning the relationship was very cold, but the more they know your reality and visit you, they feel part of what you are doing, they feel part of something more global, they see that the baserri is doing great, that you are recovering seeds ... they value it more and more. You feel them as companions.

Sending some type of communication about what is being done in the consumer basket is a good tool for outreach and awareness, because there is not always time to talk to everyone.

Training and accompaniment

The youth that come to the countryside or take up family activity in a transformative way do so with a clear political conscience, we said before. In my opinion this is another key element, without it it is difficult to secure spaces for young people in rural areas. And that is why, at this point, training must address two aspects. On the one hand, technical training along the lines of the productive model of food sovereignty, agroecology, training that, by the way, is not the one offered in official schools. And on the other hand, a political formation that reinforces and consolidates those ideas that make young people attract the countryside as a way of life.

As part of this training, emphasis should be placed on cross-cutting elements that represent very important changes compared to the conventional model, for example: there is no need to start with a large investment. The mentality should be to advance little by little and, above all, without going into debt. And this is linked to another key element already mentioned: fleeing dependencies, be they banks, technologies, prices set by business interests, etc. It must seek to lower costs, obtaining its own seeds, preparing its own feed ... here a lot can be learned from the peasant models of Latin America, for example.

Achieving all this alone is very complicated, so it is essential to look for companions, partners and associates, or to be within cooperatives controlled by the sector itself, to work in a network. Training in this sense, in dynamics of participation and cooperation, in mutual support, in transparency, is fundamental. And here it also comes to defend honesty and ethics in price management in training, for example, if agro-ecological production lowers costs, final prices must also be adapted in a firm commitment to consumers.

We have made a small investment, but the minimum. You learn to take advantage of what you have and we have been lucky. We have decided not to ask for subsidies because you spend twice as much and you have to buy everything new. We go little by little.

It is important that the training is free and given by experienced people. They tend to be very theoretical, but the good thing is that they advise you constantly afterwards and doubts are resolved. For me, more than what we have learned, the important thing about the training has been to know each other. Many things have come out that will last.

And the missing piece, inside and outside

Existing then these conditions and profiles, there is a missing piece that accelerates and facilitates the process of installation and transformation in the rural world. It is in the hands of the agrarian unions to be that piece and to bet decisively on the reason for its existence: to defend the dignity of an activity that requires maximum responsibility and professionalism, which provides food to the population.

Because it is the agrarian unions that can help break down the barriers that exist within the system so that a productive project can move forward with new values. Training, support, market dynamization by promoting marketing networks or pressure on public administrations to change legislation are some of the actions that can be implemented. But there are many more.

On the other hand, if we are able to make good alliances for food sovereignty, it can become the true lobby for food. Citizens have the capacity to pressure to materialize this.

We must not stop acting, then, from within and from without, pressing for policies that favor us and without ceasing to build apart from those that are not favorable to us, demonstrating the capacity of the model that we propose to build another rural world, another economy, another society.

Because young people convinced and wanting to make it happen are not lacking, and they have a great future.

Management could play a critical role in rejuvenating the field and increasing its jobs. However, this is far from being the case. And that's how it is perceived by young people who join or try. They know that the aid is important, however, they are clear that they would reject it if it is "conditional" or linked to intensive projects that will put them out of debt. It is key to get out of the subsidy mentality, especially if we take into account that in a few years they will all disappear.

I ask the administrations for a change of mentality, that they respect the first sector. If someone wants to settle in, they should pull out the red carpet. Facilities should be given, as they are given to oil companies or mining companies. I do not want it to be the same, I do not ask for help, but at least they do not interfere.

Before everyone got into aid plans and now they think about it because they are traps, there is no possibility of going little by little with aid: you go or you don't. The administration guides you towards a specific model, and they accuse you that going little by little is not professional, it is not serious.

Food Sovereignty Magazine