Agriculture has always been a pre-eminent occupation in Nepal. As per the International Labour Organisation, agriculture sustains almost 68 percent of Nepal’s livelihood and covers around 34 percent of the national GDP. However, Nepal is still toddling in this sector making the production inadequate and the development process very slow. Where the industry is demanding active workforce, only a small section of youths are really concerned about the need for advanced agricultural knowledge for the improvement of a nation’s economy.
Binayak Rajbhandari is the Founder Chairperson and Executive Chairperson at Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (HICAST). He has also been serving Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation (FAO) as the National Consultant. Glocal Khabar had an all-inclusive interview with him to know more about ‘Agriculture’ as a ‘Degree’ and the scope of agriculture for Nepalese Youths. Here are some extracts:
Glocal Khabar: Since you have been amplifying your expertise in this field for a long period of time, please share us what actually is agriculture in terms of a degree and what sort of misconception do people still have regarding this topic?
Mr. Rajbhandari: It’s really sad when people still limit agriculture to farming. Agriculture is an industry where every single fraction counts, from the production, processing, storage to the marketing. This means, agriculture isn’t solely led by farmers but also the technical, managerial and marketing team which is actually a sparse concept in Nepal. So in order to create such specialized and advanced workforce, academically backed courses have been provided in the country such as Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (B.Sc. Agriculture) and Bachelor of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry Agriculture (B.V.Sc. & AH). Talking about the present time, it’s overwhelming that such misconceptions are fading away resulting more involvement of youths in these courses. The increment in girls participation is actually quite appreciable.
Glocal Khabar: How diversified is the curriculum and is it applicable as per the need of Nepalese agricultural demand?
Mr. Rajbhandari: Over the past few years, the curriculum has been adjusted as per the need of the situation. It looks more open to the gender sensitivity, youth employability, and national feasibility. The morality, project works, field-based internship and research thesis make the curriculum more comprehensive. There is the inclusion of many topics like Horticulture, Agri-economics, Soil Science and Development Studies. However, we still can’t deny the fact that few of the other Nepalese courses are still rigid to be practical in the real field. Agriculture means natural resource management. But due to political interference and unstable policies, we aren’t able to manage our natural resources in a sustainable way. This is where our feasibility fails.
Glocal Khabar: How expensive is the agricultural study? Does the employability rate after graduation content the investment?
Mr. Rajbhandari: Compared to the international studies, the agricultural study in Nepal is quite cheaper. But this doesn’t raise any question on the quality of the education provided because Nepalese students have been able to impressively establish as one of the finest products in the world. Many of them are remarkably doing well both nationally and internationally. However B.V.Sc. & AH is a bit expensive than B.Sc. Agriculture but both are financially accessible to most of the Nepalese families.
These courses are generally designed to produce the job creator than the job seeker. So it’s barely few who are deprived of any jobs. Many of the graduates start their own businesses or collaborate to form the cooperatives. The government also provides incentives for the startup in such fields.
Glocal Khabar: It’s been a while since we are hearing many youths getting involved in the field of agropreneurship but the involvement is still low. What are the real obstacles faced by our youths?
Mr. Rajbhandari: It is estimated that the country requires almost 3500-4000 human resources but the institutions in Nepal are able to produce only 300-400 annually. So this can be the main cause for the involvement to be low. On the other hand, the technological gap is also creating the problem. Today’s youth are more advanced in terms of technology but the awareness is seldom in a low pitch especially in rural areas. For example, there are so many apps created by these youth, but only a few masses use it due to less technical literacy. This is a sort of demotivation for rising youth who aren’t able to expand their market. We must be able to use the technology for the promotion of production and facilitate the marketing channel.
Similarly, there are many youths who want to invest in the country after returning from abroad, however, the political instability, lack of infrastructures and inflation misleads them.
Glocal Khabar: Please share your final messages to our youths.
Mr. Rajbhandari: The only thing I want to tell our youths is that Agriculture is our culture. Once upon a time, we used to feed our neighboring countries but today, we ourself are facing the shortage. So try to embrace this culture. There are problems for sure but you are the future of our nation. Try to elevate the organic production and sustainable agriculture. It’s not that we lack the opportunities, the thing is we aren’t able to ‘Create’ enough.
By: Ruby Shah