Village Survival

Introduction to Study

Many parties are worried about the sustainability of agriculture, especially rice farming. This concern is partly due to the high production costs, the narrowing of paddy fields, and the younger generation who are reluctant to work in the fields because they consider working in the fields to be dirty, unprofitable and demeaning.

One example of an expression of concern was written up by a magazine: “We need farmers! We need them now and will need them in the future. We need farmers for our food security. Only in this way can we support and help preserve village communities (SALAM magazine, no. 7, June 2004). The concern for the sustainability of agriculture may be the concern of the middle class, policy makers and international institutions who want the village to continue its function as a food provider for urban people, and see migration to cities as something negative and undesirable. And the concern is closely related to the changes that occur in the village.

Many studies and literature on changes in rural areas, farmers and agriculture have been carried out. Almost all rural observers view the countryside as undergoing a transition. From studies that discuss the economy, livelihoods in villages in Java and Southeast Asia in the 19th century were diverse and not only farming rice fields (Elson, 1997; Alexander et al, 1991), although there are also those who argue that it was only around the second half of the 20th century. 20 more and more open economic diversity (Breman, 2000:231). Rice cultivation is no longer the main arena of employment, and 6 out of 10 households work non-agriculturally (Elson 1997:175). Identity is also blurred because the inhabitants do not fully live in the village but begin to have orientations and perspectives from their experiences and livelihoods in the city (Elson, 1997:xxii). This, according to Elson, makes the village a mere place of life, no longer synonymous with agriculture, and no longer a place for a population that is bound by togetherness but is filled with people who are from a larger community that transcends neighborly relations and is oriented towards social affairs. larger affairs (1997:225). The image of helping to help has almost completely disappeared and is fully monetized so that all transactions are carried out with and because of money (Breman and Wiradi, 2004:26). Meanwhile, from the political side and the peasant movement, Moyo and Yerros (2005:35) believe that after the farmers have experienced many blows from economic and political forces, farmers are now starting to provide more progressive resistance, by carrying out different tactics, that is, having exceeded their boundaries. local boundaries as illustrated by Scott in Weapons of the Weak (1985). According to Moyo and Yerros, the countryside has now become the most significant area as a base for the anti-imperialist movement (2005:35). All the influences and changes that have occurred in the village have changed the face of the countryside, farmers and agriculture in almost all aspects of their lives so that the definition of farmers also needs to be reviewed, to determine future agricultural prospects (Bryceson, 2000: 322). And at the extreme point is the opinion that agriculture in Southeast Asia (including Java) will certainly disappear (Elson, 1997:xxii), it is only a matter of time when geographically it is increasingly pushed back and forgotten by policy makers, hit by a disaster or civil war (Bryceson , et al 2000:323).

From this pessimistic picture of the future of agriculture, one thing that needs to be understood more deeply is about the regeneration of farmers who will carry out agricultural work. The initial picture of the youth succeeding agriculture in the village doesn’t seem too good either. In the context of economic and social changes in the village as described in the various literature above, many rural youth as a productive age group who are expected to continue working in agriculture, begin to abandon their “agricultural” or “rural” identity as a way to avoid the prospect of agriculture. which he considered gloomy and stupid (Bryceson 2000:311).

If the studies that have been conducted on villages and agriculture show that the boundaries between villages and cities are blurred from all aspects, and are increasingly encouraging people to leave the villages, it may be important to look at the people who survive in the villages, especially the younger generation. in the village about what they imagine about life and livelihood. Who are they and what keeps them in the village while work in agriculture is increasingly pushed and shifted to non-agriculture. How can they survive in the village? What does the village provide for them to live on?

This research is a descriptive study regarding rural youth as a productive workforce; what do they aspire to, and how do they make a living from the changing situation of the village where they live. This research was made because studies on youth, especially those in rural areas and agriculture, are still lacking. The lack of studies on youth may be due to the fact that this group is not treated specifically and is often equated (combined) with the general population. Although there is no specific study on youth, they are often considered as a potential group that is expected to continue and roll the wheels of the family economy and village economy. Activism or movements in villages also often rely on youth militancy to achieve goals. It is hoped that this research can fill the void in the study of youth, especially village youth, in the context of changes in rural and agriculture due to their openness to the outside world.


The conceptual description meant here is an explanation of several conditions, concepts, views, which are used to limit the scope of thinking in this study. The concepts and or views presented here are concepts that presumably play an important role in being able to answer questions about why young people survive in villages.

2.1 Youth: Who Are They?

There are many definitions of “youth”. As an example, the definition used by the United Nations and its agencies is individuals aged 15-24 while that used by the World Bank is 12-24, while from the minister of youth and sports in Indonesia, youth are individuals aged 15-24. There is no normative and standard definition to designate who is included in the youth category, the variations depend on the social, cultural, economic and political situation in which the youth are located.

Who are the youth in this study is determined through the appointment and recognition of people who live in the area where they live. As young people who are appointed and recognized by fellow citizens, they can consist of people who are or are not married. In the two research location villages, the youths appointed by the villagers were those aged between 15 to 40 years. From the 15-40 segment, it is further divided into two age categories, namely the 15-24 age range is called youth, while those 25-40 are said to be adults. Marital status was not considered in determining the youth category.

Youth are often neglected in policy making because to get attention at least youth must be included in their own population while so far, this category has always been combined into one with the general adult population. So the problems of youth and their potential are automatically neglected by the problems of the population in general so that special policies have never been made (Bennel, 2007). Existing writings on youth generally discuss issues of employment for youth which are of increasing concern (underemployment), and have low productivity, low education, and are an age group that is vulnerable to disease transmission and illegal labor trafficking. According to Bennel (2000), one of the attributes attached to youth is that they are less economically independent. They generally still depend on their parents for their survival. In terms of education, rural youth tend to have less education than urban youth (Bennel, 2000:4).

With the socio-economic and political changes taking place in the village, the job options that can be carried out by youth are actually not limited to the agricultural sector. However, it is not certain whether these sectors can be easily entered by village youths who incidentally tend to have low education. It is the uncertainty about the direction of the youth’s “work” to live their lives that seems to have not received attention in policy making. And for that reason, several intervention programs aimed at youth were created.

Intervention programs for youth are generally designed to address various risks of global economic pressures such as unemployment, health threats such as HIV, and, trafficking, illegal migrant workers. The programs developed are essentially aimed at creating an enabling environment for villagers, especially youth, to be more productive in the villages and not migrate to cities. Some of the enabling environment creation programs include; increasing farmers’ access to agricultural credit, access to marketing, technology, tenure of land and other resources, community organizing, and so on. Several programs are aimed at managing the flow of money going in and out of villages through migrants (remittances) so that these funds can be used effectively for rural development. Programs that target young people assume that empowering the village’s younger generation is the answer for medium and long term development, especially to ensure food security.

2.2. Rural Communities and Livelihood Opportunities

Villages and rural communities are almost always associated with cities and the wider region, both from an economic, social, cultural and political perspective. Economically, the integration of the village with the wider economic system (district and city), as well as the presence of industries around the village means that it opens up economic opportunities that can be explored by rural communities both in cities and in their own villages. Some of the economic activities that can be carried out by rural communities are opening their own businesses such as stalls/grocery shops, food businesses, small household-scale industries, workshops, etc. Apart from opening their own businesses, villagers can also stay in their villages by becoming workers in nearby factories, although not all local people can meet the requirements to work in existing industries.

Not all village people can take advantage of the opportunities presented by industrialization around the countryside or the wider market system. Effendi said that the village community was actually still not ready to face this openness because market openness meant competition from newcomers and a complicated economic system that demanded high quality from village people. As a result, the economic enterprises that can be explored by villagers are small-scale and informal economic activities. Thus, the idea that the industry will improve the lives of villagers (around the industry) with a trickle down effect is not proven (Effendi, 1997:133-137). As for rice farming activities, it has been frequently studied and it is predicted that it will be increasingly shifted due to the openness of this village; the land is getting narrower, and the young people in the village are reluctant to go down into the mud of the rice fields. What economic opportunities can young people in the village make for their livelihood?

Production in rural areas (in farming communities) is generally characterized by activities named by Bernstein as petty commodity production or perhaps it can be interpreted as small commodity production, namely small-scale household production by individuals and farming families who cultivate one or more certain commodities ( Bernstein 2003:4). This business is one of the efforts of farmers to meet their subsistence needs where farmers are the owners of capital as well as workers. With the maturity of capitalism and the dependence of farmers on inputs from outside (the market), according to Bernstein, it is this form of small-scale production that farmers can do with various variations (between agricultural and non-agricultural work). And almost all farmers enter into businesses of this scale, so that competition will occur among themselves, especially among small (poor) farmers who enter small-scale wages which are widely contested in order to fulfill their subsistence.

Elson (1997:173) says that off-farm work is probably one of the most important phenomena in farmer’s life. Agricultural work alone is not enough and history shows that diversity has been carried out by farmers, both landless or smallholder farmers and also landlords, to meet their individual needs. Poor farmers are usually involved in small-scale non-agricultural production activities where wages are hotly contested, and only become a marginal group. The main goal is to continue life (survival). Groups of middle class farmers usually diversify their sources of income (from wage labor as well) in order to be able to reproduce their means of production, while for rich farmers it is to add to the accumulation of land or other means of production and develop their business by involving people outside their family (hiring labour) (Bernstein, 2003:5).

Regarding off-farm work, Effendi (1993) reviews it by exploring its boundaries, namely the type of work, its location, and the composition of the actors. By looking at these three limitations, the definition of off-farm work is work that is usually non-agricultural, is still carried out in a village or sub-district environment, and is carried out by productive age family members who live in the house for several months a year who also take part in decisions related to farming. both agricultural and non-agricultural work (Effendi 1993:141-142). Working in fields other than agriculture is a form of livelihood chosen by young people who are reluctant to do farming. As previously explained, with the improvement of transportation to cities, economic relations (trade), education, and industrialization around villages, opportunities to work in villages other than agriculture are also increasingly open. Working in a factory, being a casual laborer, opening a shop, workshop, lodging, raising livestock, trading, are some of the choices that can be made by young people in the village, both boys and girls.

Migration to cities is made possible by several factors, including improved transportation, there are job opportunities in cities, and depletion of income sources in villages due to diminishing resources. However, another factor that is also important to note is the presence of social networks from relatives and friends in the city. Relatives and friends from the same area who live in the city can be asked for help to facilitate work needs in the city. Without the presence of relatives or friends who have already lived and worked in the city, the migrants’ desire to live and work in the city is even more severe because they have to spend money for housing and food. In addition, information about employment and educational opportunities can generally be obtained by migrants from relatives and friends who have already settled in the city. The existence of this relative or friend is one of the factors that makes newcomers dare to go to the city.

Strong or weak kinship ties and one’s cultural ties can also encourage someone to return to their village of origin at certain times (during old age or crisis). Several examples show that migrants who have worked in cities return to their villages or areas of origin at old age or after retirement, especially if in their villages or areas of origin there are still activities that can be carried out, such as cultivating inherited land, or independent businesses. other household scales, including non-agricultural ones (Effendi 1993:141-142). Working in fields other than agriculture is a form of livelihood chosen by young people who are reluctant to do farming. As previously explained, with the improvement of transportation to cities, economic relations (trade), education, and industrialization around villages, opportunities to work in villages other than agriculture are also increasingly open. Working in a factory, being a casual laborer, opening a shop, workshop, lodging, raising livestock, trading, are some of the choices that can be made by young people in the village, both boys and girls.

Rural development programs can also be one of the factors holding back village youths from staying in the village.

Programs that fall under the umbrella of strengthening local government, strengthening farmers, strengthening small and medium enterprises, can be interpreted as opportunities for young people to be able to obtain short-term and long-term benefits both economically and socio-politically without having to go far from their villages. Training of young cadres for village leaders, strengthening and skills training for small and medium enterprise development, training and strengthening of independent farmers, are some examples of intervention programs from outside the village that might be able to hold the younger generation to survive in their villages, although maybe not all of them are in the form of strengthening economy.