In a unique initiative aimed at empowering rural youth to start agriculture-related businesses, the Kangra district administration will rope in schools to spread commercial farming of fruit plants.

Under the proposal, two fruit-bearing saplings will be distributed among every school student keeping in view the agro-climatic conditions of that area.
The administration would soon chalk out a plan in consultation with the Education Department to initiate various programmes in association with schools.

“The saplings procured from state agricultural universities, will be distributed during the monsoon,” Kangra Horticulture department, Deputy Director Daulat Ram Verma told The Statesman.

If required, plants would also be procured from government and private nurseries for distribution among students, he said, adding awareness camps will be organised to increase participation of youth in the horticulture sector.

“Horticulture activities should be fostered among the youth as there are employment opportunities in this sector. This will sensitise and encourage the rural youth to explore the potential of commercial farming and start agri-business,” said the officials of the Kangra district administration.

“There is a need to enhance off-farm and off-season employment opportunities for rural educated youth by introducing innovative agri-business models. Various schemes will be launched to exhort the public participation in horticulture sector,” said Deputy Commissioner, Kangra Sandeep Kumar.

The programme would be operational under the Horticulture Development Mission for which an annual budget of Rs 17.85 Crore had been approved.

Various activities will be undertaken, including planting of nurseries, protected farming in green houses, cash crop cultivation, beekeeping, mushroom cultivation and planting of sapling of fruits of high yield varieties.

Kumar directed the officials to promote various policies and programmes linking the general public to enhance their interest.

Besides, encouraging the existing growers, one non-agricultural person from each village of every development blocks will be linked with agriculture and farming by providing financial assistance.

The main focus is to rejuvenate existing fruit orchards by replacing old senile orchards with improved variety.