On August 3, 2017, the World Bank approved an $82.5 million credit to go toward the National Agricultural Higher Education Project for India, which will aid in developing more comprehensive programs in institutions of higher agricultural learning.
When India gained independence in 1947, there were 17 agricultural colleges focused solely on providing agricultural training. Agricultural research was conducted separately by the State Departments of Agriculture and Community Development and often was not communicated effectively enough to the agricultural colleges for that research be put into practice.
From 1953 to 1960, the number of agricultural colleges in India nearly doubled despite a widespread lack of financial support. Educational standards fell because the colleges couldn’t all sustain themselves, and agricultural progress continued to slow. This breakdown caused India’s University Education Commission to reexamine the structure of India’s institutions of higher agricultural learning and, after consultation with representatives from American universities, the Commission established the Agricultural University (AU). This type of university transformed higher agricultural education by combining training and research within one institution and is the type of university the National Agricultural Higher Education Project will aim to support.
The current problem in Indian agricultural education that the program will target is that AUs need to attract more high-achieving students in order for the Indian agriculture industry to continue to grow. One component of the project will provide more grants to AUs and funding for new centers for the study of advanced agricultural science and technology, another will address leadership within AUs and a third will develop a system for project implementation and ensure that grants and other types of funding are supervised effectively.
The National Agricultural Higher Education Project is essential because the agriculture industry is one of the biggest contributors to India’s GDP, and more than 58 percent of rural households make their living in the agricultural sector. Even more pressing, 15 percent of India’s population is undernourished, and one in three children has stunted growth. A robust agriculture industry is needed not just for profit but, for many, basic survival.
Importantly, India’s institutions of higher agricultural learning programs have consistently improved over time, and the National Agricultural Higher Education Project will likely aid in streamlining agricultural training and research efforts even further.
– Caroline Meyers