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Future of Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU)

Universities are extraordinary institutions. Among 12 universities in Nepal, there are 3 which are related to higher agricultural education. As namely:

Today we have better communications, free online information and general literacy; we also have an environment in which the universities are struggling to maintain their position. However there is a lack of proper monitoring and rewards: no prizes for having an understanding of which route the government took and how the universities responded. What does the future hold?  More of the same I am afraid, because there is little sign that government has recognized the damage that the lack of M&E has done to universities.

The establishment of a new agricultural university has made it free for thousands and thousands of fairly ordinary people to go to university.  This generated in turn, hundreds of teaching posts. However the youngest and smartest of our young people are moved away from being lecturers because staff crises at the new university are filled with all older faces from TU and they are highly guided by nepotism and political beliefs.

What have I read in four years of academics in bachelor at IAAS? I was made highly familiar with varieties and species released by Indian research institutes in my academic courses which I have made unforgettable. However, my academics do not enable me to get updated with Nepalese varieties and species which are suitable based on our geographical and agro- ecological niches. Although bachelor level students are provided with internship and work experience from farmer’s field, the lack of available funds, of good guidelines from teachers and of exam orientation limits the success of the initiatives. The significance of the program remains valid only in report writing and documentation rather than in any achievements to the students experience and performance.

So what is the expectation of students from the new university? No doubt, graduate students should be trained in the purpose of providing a fruitful contribution to farmers and farming activities. Moreover our research and findings should be compatible with present problems of farmers which could be able to contribute with some positive impacts to the existing issues. Nepalese farmers’ field (Khet ra Bari) should be our platform for practice and researches. To sum up, students must be provided with strong field based internship, and the results of their research activities should be shared with farmers.

Since teaching at a university is a rewarding career path in our context, academic professionals are proud of their status and more concerned about it than about maintaining students' high level profile, which requires much hard work and sacrifice. Teaching is not the only criterion of assessment for academic professionals. Research is another one. Academic professionals need to manage research and teaching assistantship to support full time graduate students under their direction. Their academic ranking should be based on scientific publication and their contribution to the number of new assistantships.

Our university level education is more led by foreign consultants and their expertise. In returns, government and other institutional officials are proud of their curricula, however, unaware about day by day increased number of unemployment and brain drain which was promoted by misguided curricula. I do not think our country is lacking of technical experts because we have several Nepalese technical experts in foreign land, and our senior brothers and sisters are very eager to serve our home country. If there were to be fair competition to expose their qualifications and capacities without any nature of boot-legging and intrusion, definitely they would come to serve by tomorrow.

Agriculture, which employs two third of the country’s labor force, is the main source of food, income and employment for the majority, especially for the rural population. However there is slow progress in competitive and commercial farming from traditional and subsistence one. To make Nepalese agriculture competitive there is a need to substantially increase investment on agriculture in general and research in particular. In order to meet the present challenges of agricultural research for development, research, extension, and teaching should work hands in hands.

I don't see a lack of policies and a necessity of enhanced curricula only, in Nepal; however, we are highly lacking fostered implementation of existing policies and then monitoring and evaluation over our performance. So, government officials and allied universities should review past achievements and revise our education system which can drive Nepalese agriculture sounder. The newly established university should focus its curricula on strong and separate programs in recent relevant researches on agriculture and forest sectors for the innovation and technological development, dissemination and running of academics.