The general misconception in Nepal is that education is not important in farming. Unless such misinformation is corrected, food production will not be boosted up
There are numerous opportunities in agriculture for generating employment and income. It is mainly because of varied agro-climatic conditions prevailed in the country. Agriculture presents the highest potential for growth and poverty reduction for the vast majority of rural people provided it is commercialized. But its practices in Nepal are still traditional. This situation has led to slow pace of agricultural commercialization. Youth’s involvement in agricultural production is not encouraging. In fact, many youth still view agriculture as a dead-end career. But agriculture does not have to be this way. If youth are given vocational education and other support, they can modernize agriculture and make it a commercial venture.
There is a dearth of educated and skilled youth farmers in the rural areas of the country. This has resulted in keeping fertile lands fallow without production. Hence, there is an urgent need to give priority to agriculture education for youth. Then only the country will be prosperous and people will be happy. Agricultural education should include teaching of agriculture and land management to attract youth farmers. The concerned government agencies and donors involved in education must, therefore, give priority to invest in the institutions and infrastructures that support youth entrepreneurs in agriculture through vocational education.
Why youth education?
The general misconception widely spread in Nepal is that education is not all that important in farming. It is more a hands-on business. Unless such misinformation circulating about agriculture is corrected, food production will not be boosted up. Each youth should know the saying, “If you like to eat, then you have to like agriculture”. Everyone knows how food gets to their plate.
Can anybody, who has no formal education and skill, be a farmer? Yes, he or she can be a farmer without any former education. But he/she needs education to be a successful farmer or entrepreneur. He/she needs to know what is going on around the farm. He/she needs to know new technologies for higher productivity. He/she needs to know market linkage for selling farm products. In fact, farmers of today require education to stay aware of fast-moving developments in technology and business management. In other words, agriculture requires professionals with specialized skills to produce safe food for consumption and make the agricultural products competitive in the market. Vocational education helps youth farmers increase their knowledge in these areas and adopt practices that are economically profitable, environmentally sound, and contribute to quality of life.
The agriculture of today is more competitive due to globalization. That is why we need young educated farmers to make agriculture competitive through commercialization. Increased access of youth to education can transform agriculture by applying new technologies and new thinking. The young Nepalis, who have some formal education, have realized this fact and started to become farmers and manage their enterprises for better earning. Agriculture has enormous potential for eradicating poverty, provided educated youth with energy and passionate are involved in its development.
As agriculture provides the main source of income to the majority of Nepali people, it is vital that young people are connected with farming. But most of them are lacking access to training and education on farming and therefore are not being encouraged to perceive agriculture as a future career. If young people are offered education in agriculture and are engaged with innovations, then the agriculture industry can feed the ever growing population of the country. Youth in agriculture can help achieve the national target of self-reliance in food. The Youth Education in Agriculture builds a strong foundation for the future of agriculture development.
Technical and vocational education including agriculture is provided by both public and private institutions, and offered under the purview of the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT), established in 1989. But they are not adequate. As of now, there are five technical schools in five Provinces (1, 2, 3, 5, and 6). Although the private sector has also started technical schools in agriculture, the tuition fees in these private schools are very high. Poor farmers from the rural areas cannot educate their children in such schools. Thus, youths from poor and disadvantaged communities are deprived from such education. The provincial and local government should, therefore, give first priority to support such poor people for their vocational and technical education in agriculture.
Furthermore, the quality of education is also low in terms of practical skill development. Courses that are offered in the education institutions are not meeting the changing needs. Rapid advancement in science has influenced the subject matter and the types of topics youth farmers or students need to understand in today’s agricultural system. Value addition, value chain, gender in agriculture, bio-technology, climate change, water management, protected agriculture and agri-business are some of the subject areas which need to be incorporated into curricula. To improve further, a more inter-disciplinary, systems approach to agriculture education integrating environmental, gender, population issues, and sustainable agricultural topics should be incorporated as a part of the academic program.
The school system in Nepal consists of primary, lower secondary, secondary and higher secondary education, lasting a total of 12 years. Agriculture education at the school level is at low profile. So the country needs to develop an education program oriented to agriculture at the school level.
The Education Act which came into effect a year ago has provisioned Grade 9 to 12 as the secondary level. At present, there are 9379 secondary level schools scattered all over the country. If agriculture courses are offered in all these schools with option of different subjects, there will not be any shortage of youth manpower in agriculture. It will also help expedite commercialization of agriculture in a sustainable way. Both government and private schools should prioritize agriculture in their curriculum by making it a core subject. Maintaining a school garden in each school as a part of practical training could compliment agricultural courses effectively. Furthermore, it is also important that the content of the syllabus is agri-business oriented and helps youth farmers make agriculture the most honored professions. It is already getting late for the government to take initiatives for defining the overall agricultural priorities and policies with regard to agriculture education and training.