Agriculture constitutes the biggest income source in Nepal. According to 2015-16 data, agriculture contributes 33.1 percent of Nepal’s GDP. No wonder then that agricultural education should get a preferential treatment in the Himalayan country. edInbox tried finding out the exact state of agricultural education in Nepal and arranged an exclusive interview with Kalyani Mishra Tripathi, the Assistant Dean of Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) at Rampur in the Chitwan district of Nepal. Here are the excerpts:
edInbox: There is a common perception that students from rural areas are more inclined towards agricultural education. Is it true?
Kalyani: This is a myth. A majority of the students in the agricultural schools come from the urban areas. If I have to give you the example of our university, the number of applications ranges between 4,000 and 5,000 while the total intake is only 100. Students with good speaking and presentation skills are chosen, a majority being from the urban areas.
edInbox: What are the major advantages of establishing agricultural institutes in Nepal?
Kalyani: Our greatest strength is our students, who have been globally exhibiting their talents and knowledge. Alas! They have not been able to leave a mark in their own country.
Also, the other major advantage is Nepal’s climate. It has a rich variety of climatic conditions and that too within its limited territory. Thus, all different types of agricultural productions can be done in Nepal. It is definitely one of the best countries in the world when it comes to agriculture.
edInbox: Are there enough institutes available in the country for students who want to pursue agricultural and forestry education?
Kalyani: Yes, most definitely! Earlier, only Tribhuvan University used to provide courses in agriculture and forestry. But later, Purbanchal University also joined the bandwagon and now there is a plethora of private institutes that provide courses in agriculture and forestry. The number of institutions providing agriculture and forestry courses have been increasing at a rapid pace.
edInbox: What are the challenges involved in opening up institutes imparting agricultural and forestry education in Nepal?
Kalyani: The greatest challenge of having an agriculture and forestry institute in Nepal is that the government policies and regulations don’t support agricultural education thereby stunting the growth of the sector.
edInbox: Are the fee structures followed by the agriculture and forestry institutes affordable?
Kalyani: The fee structures followed by the government-regulated agriculture and forestry institutes are quite cheap. Hence, these courses are affordable to people belonging to both the middle income and low income brackets.
However, the private institutes are fairly expensive when compared to the government institutes.
edInbox: What is the future of students who choose to study agriculture and forestry?
Kalyani: Agriculture and forestry education usually produce job creators instead of job seekers.
The only problem in the Nepalese market is that commercialization of agriculture has not taken place and there are a limited number of agriculture-based companies. Consequently, students migrate to other countries to pursue their careers.
edInbox: How trained are the teachers who facilitate the learning process for students in agricultural and forestry education?
Kalyani: Most of the faculty members involved in agriculture and forestry education are well-qualified and hold PhD degrees.
edInbox: We can see that the top-notch institutes that offer agricultural and forestry courses are located outside the capital unlike other educational courses. Why so?
Kalyani: Agricultural and forestry education is primarily application-based that requires land for the conduction of practical sessions. Huge land areas are available only in the outskirts and small cities rather than large cities.
edInbox: Has there been any marked improvement in female enrollments in agricultural and forestry courses?
Kalyani: Yes, the female enrollments in this sector have been increasing. 30 to 35 percent of the total enrollments at such institutes are girls. The number used to be extremely small in the past.
edInbox: When compared to management, engineering, IT, medical and the likes, agricultural education usually sees a limited number of enrollments. What is your take on that?
Kalyani: The universities and institutes that offer agricultural education mostly have poor infrastructure and a limited number of seats. As a result, these institutes cannot take in a lot of students.
edInbox: Has there been any improvement in the concerned field of education?
Kalyani: Yes, a tremendous improvement has been witnessed. Earlier, students were compelled to migrate to other countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh for pursuing higher degrees like PhD. However, the same is locally available now thus making it a lot easier for the students.
Reporting by Mahima Poddar, Glocal Khabar Special Correspondent, Kathmandu, Nepal