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Cultivating new generations in agriculture

Cultivating new generations in agriculture

The RCPR Higher Secondary School for Agriculture in Savoi-Verem, is breaking new ground in encouraging youngsters towards agriculture. Manguirish Pai Raikar*, chairman of the institute, reveals details about the institute and its students, who are now exploring diverse areas in the agricultural sector

Agriculture has always been the backbone of Indian economy right from the Vedic times, with Vedic literature providing some of the earliest written record of agriculture in India. Rigveda hymns, for example describes ploughing, fallowing, irrigation, fruit and vegetable cultivation. Goa, not to be left behind also displayed prosperous history of agriculture, with its alluvial and loamy soil found in the inland and along the riverbanks, supporting the local cultivators. However, the importance of the Goan agricultural sector to the state economy is found to be shrinking over the past four decades, with crops like rice, which is the main agricultural crop of the state, followed by areca nut, cashew and coconut suffering in the bargain.

The urgent need to provide a boost to the state agriculture can be seen reflected in the recent state budget speech of the Chief Minister, wherein while maintaining that “agriculture is the only honest way wherein man receives the real fruits of the seed sown into the ground,”, he spoke about the government giving priority to agriculture. “I aim to achieve six per cent growth in agricultural sector thereby making Goa completely self-sustainable and non-dependable in respect of food grain, milk, vegetables and all other agricultural products,” the speech assured.

It is however very important that in order to take the state agriculture back to its golden days, the new generation needs to be introduced to it, and one of the best ways to do it is to impart scientific knowledge about agriculture to the members of this generation. Ramanata Crisna Pai Raikar Education Society was formed with the objective of imparting education in the field of agriculture. Its vision was to have basic awareness, appreciation and appropriate understanding of agriculture through participation in school agricultural education program that meets the state’s agricultural parameters and further challenges the learners to achieve their greatest potential. It’s a premier technical-vocational institution committed to catalyse change through development of highly skilled manpower with positive work values and entrepreneurial orientations towards agriculture. The promoters’ mission was to promote and develop agricultural skills for increasing agricultural area of operation and thereby increase the productivity and the quality through progressive farming and to promote self-employment in this sector.

The RCPR Higher Secondary school for Agriculture was started from the academic year, 2013-2014 in the panoramic village Savoi-Verem. This village is predominantly an agricultural area known for its ‘Kulagars’, the areca nut plantations and spice gardens. The agrarian society of this village participated in the school formation process with complete enthusiasm. The classes initially began in their ancestral property at Savoi-Verem and the field work began in their orchard land, which was handed over to the society. The syllabus for class XI and class XII for the agriculture stream was designed with emphasis on practical education and was approved by the Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, and further endorsed by the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF), Bhopal. The school received approval from the department of education. The first three batches of class XII have successfully passed out in the year 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.

With the approval from the government of Goa, Maharashtra (MCAER) and Goa University, this first community college was started in the state for Diploma and Advance Diploma Course in agriculture program under the Community College Ordinance OA-21 to begin from the academic Year 2016-17. The intake would be 30 students per batch. This will be the first community college in the state fulfilling the needs of creating skilled manpower in the field of agriculture. There is no age barrier for entry to this course, thus it also meets the life-long learning needs of the community besides giving vertical mobility to the students.

The courses on offer are diplomas, advance diplomas and certificate courses in agriculture. The duration of these courses ranges from six months to two years. These courses have been started keeping in mind the rising unemployment and low rates of employment. At a time when the economy is not doing very well, these courses come as a hope for those who cannot afford expensive college degrees.

This institute has initiated Memorandum of Understanding with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); Dr B S S Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli; India Dutch Education Agency, Netherlands; and Michigan State University, Michigan. Faculty members from all these institutions have already visited this school and have conducted coaching classes. They would further be visiting every year and conducting ‘train the trainer’ programme for the benefit of the teaching staff. Recently this Institute has inked an agreement with HAS University from The Netherlands. This will enable student exchange and internship program, and promote research in the field of agriculture. The first research will be on jackfruit for enhancement of its nutritional value and in food processing. The research student and the guide would be shortly beginning their work.  They have all appreciated the efforts of starting this school and the community college, and have suggested additions in some fields to enable better practical training.

This highly career oriented and job assured course in class XI and class XII conducted in this institute is worthy of praise. The staff under the leadership of the principal Shrirang Jambhale has taken lot of efforts in giving all round education and hands on training in all spheres of agriculture. Some of the students passing out of this school have joined the government service under the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) scheme and are providing value-added service to the farmers. Some other students of this institute have gone into agriculture and are successfully utilising the knowledge of modern farming, use of equipments and latest initiatives in agriculture to get commercial benefits from the soil.

One such initiative at Bicholim undertaken by one of our students has paved way for bumper produce of water melons, okra, brinjals, chilies etc. Several others have gone into floriculture and are commercially benefitted self-employed. Most of the class XII pass outs have opted for further studies. Presently thirty students each are admitted to the class XI, XII course and advance diploma course, respectively. It is satisfying to note that the youth of Goa have shown interest in this field. The students with keen desire to make a carrier in agriculture and children of farmers are given priority for the admission at the institute. The institute has contributed immensely in providing opportunity to the local youth to make a carrier as self-employed or productive farmer with commercial knowledge.

The ‘Year of Family Farming’ was celebrated by the institute by conducting soil test of more than 500 farms, and counseling the farmers with the help of soil report. The present year is celebrated as the ‘International Soil Year’. The management has established mobile soil testing laboratory in the institute and conducted this program on a bigger scale. The staff under the leadership of principal has taken lot of efforts in giving all round education and hands on training in all spheres of agriculture to the farmers.

The commitment of the government of India to integrate skill development in the higher education system with flexible learning formats is reflected in its initiative to prepare a National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) for standardisation and thus, wider acceptance of the skill oriented courses amongst the employers. There is also flexibility for further skill development.

The Prime Minister in his call to the nation to build up skill in the youth with special emphasis in the field of agriculture had motivated many students to come forward and be empowered with knowledge in the field of agriculture. This initiative will give a boost to Mission Skill Development. Since the facilities are now provided within the state, the government should now provide regular grant-in-aid facility to this higher secondary school and the community college.

A small step often leads to greater journeys and the RCPR school has many plans of its expansion in the years ahead. The institute has definitely spread awareness about education in the agriculture field, and it should therefore not come as a surprise, if the state slowly moves back to the agrarian society.

 

*Manguirish Pai Raiker is the chairman of National Council for MSME and former director of GCCI

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