Does Nepal still need more agricultural colleges or research and extension fund ?

Ram Hari Timilsina

Agriculture graduates are being produced in Nepal without a concrete plan for human resources. However, According to the budget speech of the fiscal 2078/79 government still wants to expand agricultural colleges in Nepal. We can imagine more colleges will be opened in the provinces of Nepal. This paper aims to explore the status of agriculture colleges, their graduates, and their demand in Nepal.

Agricultural education in Nepal was initiated in 1952 with the establishment of an Agricultural Training Center (ATC) in Singh Durbar, Kathmandu to train agricultural technicians. Later, the Department of Agriculture established a School of Agriculture to train Junior Technical Assistant (JTA) and Junior Technician (JT) in 1957. School of Agriculture got upgraded to a College of Agriculture in Pulchowk, Lalitpur in 1968. With the implementation of a 'new education system' in Nepal, this college was again upgraded to the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS) and was brought under the Tribhuvan University system in 1972. The IAAS was relocated from Kathmandu to Rampur, Chitwan district in 1974. IAAS started its Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (B. Sc. Ag.) in 1977. After the establishment of the Council of Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) in 1989, universities in Nepal stopped producing middle–level technical human resources. People realized the need for specialized technical universities and started to lobby to establish since 1990s. Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) was established in Rampur, Chitwan after 20 years of consistent efforts.

To date, various constituents and affiliated campuses of several universities are providing agricultural education in different parts of the country. As the basic aim to increase trained human resources for agricultural development, a yearly increase in affiliation is being observed. The oldest institute, Tribhuvan University (TU), has produced around 16000 undergraduates and postgraduates in agriculture.

At this moment, Tribhuvan University, Agriculture and Forestry University, Purwanchal University, Far-western University, and Kathmandu University have agriculture programs, whereas, Mid-Western University is in the process to start. Altogether, Nepalese universities can enroll 2000 agriculture students per year. Moreover, hundreds of students from abroad, including the United States of America (USA), Australia, India, and many other countries, receive their agriculture and allied sciences degree. This shows the increase in an already vast pool of agricultural human resources in Nepal. Here questions arise on how many agriculture graduates we need to produce. Besides, the present status of colleges and the quality of recent graduates are also pertinent issues to discuss. The recent trend shows, the number of students who appeared in the entrance examination of B. Sc. Agriculture program is in decreasing trend. The main reason behind the decrease in aspirants could be the lack of infrastructure in the constituent’s colleges of universities. So, this is the time for institutional development of already established colleges rather than an increase in the number of colleges, instead, to respond the changing demand of society, universities should add new specialized disciplines like seed technology.

Nonetheless, educated people having investment capacity are opening colleges for their employment purposes and others as commercial enterprises. Universities and colleges are opened based on the employment situation, cost, political power lobbying, etc. In recent days charming in agriculture education are also due to international demand as well as an opportunity to get admission for higher studies abroad. Students preferred to go USA, Europe, and Australia for further study and the ultimate intent to migrate from their home country.

To be successful in agricultural education, the tripartite mission of universities: teaching, research, and extension advisory services for farmers (Land-Grant Model) is fundamental, which is lacking in Nepal. The USA government during the 1960s asked for its assistance to the many governments in South Asia after its successful implementation of tripartite mission in its own country. At that time, India, and Pakistan expressed their willingness to get help to develop universities in the Land-Grant Model, whereas Nepal opted for assistance to the government, not to the university. In the meantime, India got the opportunity to train its young agricultural scientists in the USA and got their universities established in Land-Grant Model. There are several examples of these kinds of universities in India for example, Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, India. During the 1970s, Land Grant Model Indian universities worked on improving the crops and enjoyed the Green Revolution. But, we became food-dependent and importer.

To date, Nepali universities have no clear mandate for research. In the Land-Grant Model, universities and colleges need sufficient land for research, doing practical, establishing experimentation and demonstration farms, and also exhibit successful agro-enterprises among the farmers. On the one hand, AFU wants to be established as Land-Grant University, whereas, on the other hand, it is aggressively providing affiliation to private colleges and also the university land for other purposes like international cricket stadium.

At the Land-Grant University system, research outputs are timely incorporated in the course curriculum, and it goes into the teaching. Fieldworks and research works give enough opportunities to the professors and the students to familiarize themselves with the farmers’ problems, which become an agenda for further research for post-graduate level students and faculty members.

In the same way, students receive updated knowledge on their subjects, and after graduation, they become scientists, university professors, educators, development workers in I/NGOs, government, and agri-entrepreneurs. This model provides a seamless continuum from basic research to applied action research to outreach, which results in solving real problems experienced by farmers in the field. Not only does this system extend laboratory-based science to the field, but it also allows growers to bring their problems to the university to be addressed.

Human resource need assessment is rarely practiced in Nepal. Predicting human resource need in a country is important to design academic programs. A normal trend is that the government is supposed to mandate universities to produce the required number of graduates in specific disciplines. Similarly, periodic demand assessment research should be conducted among stakeholders. Major stakeholders of these kinds could be NARC, private sectors, I/NGOs, universities, and colleges. After the promulgation of the new Constitution of Nepal (2015), Nepal has 753 local level governments. They all need agriculturist. The whole organized structures are transformed into 3 tiers i.e. federal, province, and local level of government. Despite the new improved federal concept, people have been experiencing difficulty in getting services from the new administrative system. Experts have suggested immediate recruitment of manpower to function the new system properly.

Improvement in agriculture would have a spillover effect on the majority of the people to help them improve their quality of life. To achieve quality, we must consider reorienting agricultural education with some policy shifts in the agriculture sector as well. Universities Act should be revised and implemented properly to remove disputes among the universities about ownership of property and placement of required staff. All three levels of government are also bound together with agricultural colleges that help both in funding and administrative function.

Since many universities are offering agricultural education, the graduates may have different qualities and they can provide service in many sectors of agriculture. To monitor the quality of agriculture graduates there is a need for the Agriculture Council. It is high time to create synergy by coordinating agricultural organizations including educational institutions in Nepal.

PhD Scholar  and Assistant Professor

Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal

Phone: 9855052943, Email: [email protected]