World Bank India Country Director Auguste Tano Kouame said the challenge before agricultural research institutions is to reverse high-carbon agriculture and minimise water use. He said the research institutions in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) system had made the country self-sufficient in food by developing high-yielding crop varieties. But they are carbon-intensive as they use a lot of water, fertilisers and agrochemicals. This is not sustainable.
Kouame was speaking at the valedictory function of the nternational Conference on Blended Learning Ecosystem for Higher Education in Agriculture, organised by ICAR and the World Bank on 21-23 March.
Blending learning combines physical and digital teaching and learning for improved outcomes at lower cost, by enabling online teaching and learning with engaging videos, computer-aided graphics and immersive virtual- and augmented-reality experiences. Besides agricultural higher education, NAHEP should inspire agricultural extension and vocational training, Kouame said.
This is part of Resilient Agricultural Education System (RAES), which is a component of the National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP), initiated in 2018 and ending this year. Over these five years, $165 million (Rs 600 cr) have been disbursed in instalments. The funding has been contributed equally by the Indian government and the World Bank. The World Bank loan of $82.5 million has to be repaid over 19 years after a grace period of five years. ICAR is responsible for implementing the project.
RAES was not initially included said Trilochan Mohapatra, former Director-General, ICAR, during whose tenure NAHEP was initiated. “During Covid physicality was prohibited, so digitality was promoted.” As a result of online classes, agricultural education did not suffer during the pandemic, he said.
Mohapatra said blended learning would particularly help women students and faculty with childcare responsibilities, disadvantaged groups and those in remote locations. He called for a policy to support “gender mainstreaming” and enable those with disabilities. Mohapatra also said that the government should invest in improving internet connectivity across the country. He said a consortium of agricultural and non-agricultural educational institutions should collaborate for inter-disciplinary content creation and sharing.
(Photo of World Bank Country Director Auguste Tano Kouame at valedictory function of ICAR’s blended learning conference courtesy of ICAR)