Enhancing Agricultural Productivity, Competitiveness, and Rural Growth by Promoting High Quality Agricultural Education
K. V. Raman, International Coordinator,
Agricultural Innovation Partnership

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University, New York, USA and Sathguru Management Consultants, Hyderabad, India, have been collaborating for the last five years with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and several state agricultural universities (SAUs) to facilitate curriculum reforms. These efforts have now led to the implementation of a dual degree program where students from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) can earn two degrees – a Master of Technology degree from TNAU; and a Master’s degree from Cornell University. Cornell also took the lead in bringing together 14 US Land-grant institutions, key stake holders from Indian SAUs, private and public sectors and non-governmental organizations to address curricula reforms to broaden and strengthen India’s agricultural education and extension programs, thus emphasizing its role as the “Land-grant University to the World.”

In 2010, Cornell University, in response to USAID/India’s call for proposals for Agricultural Education and Innovation Systems Project, submitted its approach for modernizing agricultural sciences and extension curriculum to improve food availability, nutrition and health in eastern India while providing opportunities for diversification of income and consequent economic and social advancement of rural poor and women in particular. In 2011, USAID selected Cornell to be the main implementer of this project.

The Cornell University consortium, comprising of US Land-grant Universities (University of California-Davis; University of Illinois; University of Georgia; The Ohio State University and Tuskegee University), the private sector (John Deere; Tata Chemicals Ltd and Sathguru Management Consultants) and educational institutions {Banaras Hindu University (BHU); Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology (SVPUA&T) and Rajendra Agricultural University (RAU)} established the USAID-supported ‘Agricultural Innovation Partnership’ (AIP) program with the aim of improving agricultural education and extension systems in the targeted institutions in the Indo-Gangetic plain.

AIP complements the overall objective of USAID/India’s Food Security Program to advance India’s role as a ‘strategic partner’ in strengthening food security in the South Asian region as the target region that will assist in disseminating the successful models in neighboring countries that fall under the Feed the Future initiative. AIP has the same goal, but will also focus on decreasing the percentage of rural population living on less than $2.00 per day (purchasing power parity) by 15 percent.

AIP aims to address cross-cutting areas in Indian agriculture that include (i) governance (ii) gender and equity (iii) innovative educational programs (iv) modern information and communication technology.
The development plan includes two components. Component 1 will strengthen curriculum at BHU and participating SAUs through eight major activities: (i) introducing new curricula in current and future undergraduate programs (ii) establishing an e-learning center at BHU and other SAUs (iii) addressing cross-cutting activities relating to agricultural education (iv) providing experiential learning modules and internships in rural and private sectors (v) establishing an Office for Technology Transfer and Commercialization (OTTC) (vi) creating Centers of Teaching Excellence (CTEX) (vii) improving library systems including appropriate training (viii) sensitizing policy planners on revamped agricultural education.

Component 2 will develop improved and innovative agricultural extension models in India by (i) establishing an innovative certified program for agricultural extension specialists (ii) creating participatory extension modules focused on women (iii) establishing a center for agricultural extension delivery (CAED) (iv) establishing market intelligence centers, farmer-owned producer companies and adopting evaluation-and-monitoring extension models (v) promoting innovative extension models for soil health using ICT and GIS (vi) scaling up natural resource management practices for efficient water use (vii) disseminating successful models via international conferences, workshops, and other communication channels.

Since January 2011, AIP has successfully implemented many programs. The significant ones include:

  • Workshops in Delhi, Banaras and Meerut, which identified the gaps in currently implemented curriculum and developed an action plan to reform the curriculum to address market needs.
  • Recently conducted workshop titled “Strengthening Academic Library to Enhance Agricultural Education” at BHU focused on linking librarians in India with those in Cornell University to promote cyber literacy and to develop e-resource collections; digitizing library collections; information literacy and library public computing and support for e-learning.
  • Visits by faculty from SVPUA&T to US partner institutions (Cornell University, Tuskegee University and University of Georgia) to develop a total of 24 curricula to result in four Bachelor degrees, two of which are new and two revised; eight new diploma programs; three vocational courses in the areas of food science and technology; one in the area of floriculture; eight new certificate courses in the areas of agriculture, biotechnology, food science and technology, and animal science.
  • Visits by the BHU team to US partner institutions (Cornell University; University of California-Davis; University of Illinois; University of Georgia; and Tuskegee University) to develop a total of 17 curricula to result in five bachelor degrees, four of which are new and one revised, five new diploma programs, three certificate programs and four new vocational courses in the areas of agricultural, veterinary, animal and dairy science and food science and technology.
  • Two certificate courses, each in the areas of making sweets, street food and fruit and vegetable processing have been offered at BHU for students and entrepreneurs. Senior policy makers in participating institutions have been kept aware of all progress in AIP. Encouraged by the rapid progress, BHU has now approved a new Institute for Veterinary and Animal Sciences to house its new faculty.
  • Approval by the Food Safety Authority of India for the establishment of a nodal food safety center to cater to the needs of the State of Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, SVPUA&T has committed significant resources to hire new faculty and expand its infrastructure to offer the reformed curriculum and extension programs.
  • Several extension programs in collaboration with Tata Chemicals, Sathguru and SVPUA&T have been implemented in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. During the programs, several new technologies were demonstrated for the benefit of small farmers. Crops covered during the demonstrations were wheat and potato. In subsequent sessions mango, pulses, maize, sugarcane, dairy, goat, poultry and fisheries will be covered.
  • Designing several extension programs to promote the use of new technologies to improve safety; farm linkages of sweet and snack makers; bakery products for small bakers; minimal value enhancement of fruits and vegetables by rural communities using locally-grown crops such as Litchi, Banana, Guava, Potato and similar efforts towards fishery, dairy, goat and poultry sectors.

AIP will continue to build private and public sector linkages to share quality knowledge by addressing market needs of the rural communities in eastern India. Promoting locally relevant curriculum and extension systems and international educational exchange between US and Indian partners will continue in the future.

“International educational exchange is the most significant current project designed to continue the process of humanizing mankind to the point we would hope that men can learn to live in peace eventually even to cooperate in constructive activities rather than compete in a mindless contest of mutual destruction. … We must try to expand the boundaries of human wisdom, empathy and perception, and there is no way of doing so except through education.” J. William Fulbright (1976)

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  • Training workshop on Assessment and Feedback in Teaching at SVPUAT
    February 2015
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    March 2015

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