In the early 1970s, a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC) visited the Agricultural Research complex at Khumaltar, Lalitpur (created by the then Department of Agricultural Education and Research and now owned by Nepal Agricultural Research Council, NARC). At the end of the visit, the NPC member called the Khumaltar Agricultural Research complex A White Elephant. This type of thinking still exists among the planners and decision makers of Nepal. This is due mainly to their educational backgrounds. The graduates of multi-faculty university education system may not realize the importance of research, because research is not an integral part of the multi-faculty university teachings.
The Tribhuvan University (TU) is a multi-faculty university. In TU, research is done in four research centers, located at Kritipur TU complex, whereas teaching is done in various campuses spread throughout the country. Professors in TU may or may not be required to do research. It is not an integral part of their teaching. An appointment of a member of NPC has always been a tradition in Nepal to pick-up My Man by the political party in the government. Major political parties also have competitions to appoint My Man/Your Man in the key university appointments. This practice has always kept the Right Man away from the sight. So we often hear comments as mentioned above. The dominance of such persons who never understood the requirements of agriculture and forestry education created a blunder while suggesting opening of the University of Agriculture and Forestry (UAF). Had there been a person who understood the requirements of agriculture and forestry education, the UAF would have never appeared as it is now.
The present UAF is a combination of TU campuses at Rampur (Agriculture) and Hetauda (Forestry). This was a big mistake, a faulty decision. The TU does not appear willing to hand over its property at Rampur and Hetauda to the new university. Neither has it stopped its programs at these campuses. Programs of the two universities are operating at Rampur campus and there is a problem of sharing the facilities. There have been disturbances and confusions. The TU appointed Dean has not been able to function at Rampur. This is a very unfortunate situation. There has been a mistake and it needs correction. Nepal government must intervene and work to transfer all the programs and facilities, including willing man-power of the two campuses of TU at Rampur and Hetauda to the UAF. This will ease the situation. The ultimate objective of the government should be to bring agriculture and forestry education on the Right Track. This might be done by a complete stop of agriculture and forestry teachings at TU campuses.
The programs and facilities, including willing man-power of the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS) and Institute of forestry (IOF), TU, should automatically be handed over to UAF. The expanded UAF might be renamed as National University of Agriculture and Forestry. The TU should understand that doing this is a national need and it is for the national benefit. It should co-operate with the process.
The TU is a nation-supported university. So it is virtually a National University of Nepal. The UAF must also be nation-supported varsity. Only the announcement of the opening and the appointments of the university authorities of the UAF might not be sufficient. University education in agriculture and forestry is very expensive. It requires a very high spending. So the success of the university lies in the government as to how it nourishes the baby university for its growth and development. For this an adequate support and funding from the government is essential and required. The UAF must be strong in its programs and execute them effectively. Teaching at UAF is done under Land Grant Pattern of education, first developed by the US universities and adopted by most of the agricultural universities of the world. In that, stakeholders’ problems are solved through research and the findings of research are integrated in teaching. The teaching, research and development work with the participation of stakeholders (extension) are considered the Three Pillars of Agriculture and Forestry Development. These pillars must be equally strong and must support for and co-operate with each other’s activities as and when needed. These three must go together. A professor in the UAF needs to know the problems of the stakeholders, try to solve them by research and the finding of research needs to be integrated in teaching. In the same way a student at UAF needs a frequent visit to stakeholders’ problem area and get acquainted with them. Frequent student and stakeholder interactionsare necessary to help produce efficient and competent man-power. So the teaching, research and extension must be the integral part of the UAF teaching. The man–power developed under this system of education have proven to be efficient and competent in agricultural and forestry development work. In Nepal, these three functions of agriculture and forestry development are done by separate institutions such as Teaching by TU and UAF, Research by NARC and Forestry Research Division and development work by Extension Departments. There exists no desired level of collaboration, co-operation and co-ordination in solving problems of the stakeholders.
The UAF may need Research Farms and Stationsin different parts of the country representing a diverse agro-climatic and ecological zone so that the UAF professors and students might get exposure and opportunity to do research on area specific problems and tackle them on site. Instead of creating such facilities of its own, UAF, it may be wiser, should work with the Government to make the already existing Research Farms and Stations of NARC accessible and those of the departments of relevant ministries for the use of professors and students of UAF. These facilities of NARC and department are widespread, and represent diverse agro-climatic and ecological zones of Nepal. These facilities are national properties and must be best utilized for the national benefits. Ownership should not be important. This article proposes UAF should have a place to work on an area specific problem and get solutions through research. The UAF graduate students need to do a Thesis Research. The Thesis Research could be worked out on problems of those areas. Scientists of NARC and Extension Scientists of departments might be appointed as co-supervisors of the student’s Thesis Research. This arrangement certainly will be mutually beneficial and also in the national benefit. This way, the UAF products would have a wider practical exposure and understanding. This will ultimately yield a more competent and efficient man-power to work under various programs of NARC and other related departments of Government, NGOs/INGOs, and many more places.
If Nepal is an agricultural country, it must prosper through agriculture and forestry. This is possible and must be achieved. The development thus achieved will be sustainable and this will help keep young boys and girls in the country. The development brought by remittance money is temporary and uncertain. A copy of this pattern of education introduced in India in the early 1960s changed India from a food deficit country to food surplus one at present. India has at least one Agriculture University in each state. India has achieved Green Revolution.Nepal, on the other hand, a food exporting country in the 1960s has become a food importing country. Among many factors to blame for contributing to this situation is the faulty agriculture and forestry education system followed by the country. Now the UAF must concentrate it teaching under Land Grant Pattern and develop UAF as a Centre of Excellence in Mountain Agriculture and Forestry Education. Nepal has many challenges and many opportunities as the comparative advantage. So we must concentrate on area specific development with greater participation of stakeholders to solve their problem and find solutions through proper research and the integration of the findings in teaching. We must work hard and harness these advantages and develop Nepal into A Paradise. This is possible only through a proper agriculture and forestry education which is the undertakings of the UAF.
So far the products of IAAS and IOF, TU have been good theoretically and practically weak to work under Nepal’s diverse conditions. They have shown a good performance in many foreign countries where there are systems already developed. Our students work a little hard and fit in the new environment and demonstrate their competency in those countries. So it is apparent that the man-power developed under TU at IAAS and IOF have been the man-power for other countries. This way we have been helping Brain-Drain as well. The IAAS and IOF used to have professors trained from famous universities of the world (USA, Philippines, India and many other countries). Most of these professors are now working in foreign countries. The replacements have been done mostly by graduates of IAAS and IOF in the recent years. This has created an In-breeding Problem which results in the degradation of educational quality.
Now it is the responsibility of UAF to work out a system in Nepal in collaboration with NPC, University Grant Commission (UGC), Ministry of Finance (MOF), Ministry of Agriculture Development (MOAD) and University of Forestry and Soil Conservation (MOFS) and their related departments and NARC such that the system brings researchers, stakeholders and extension personnel, university professors and students together to discuss and co-operate, co-ordinate and help produce effective, efficient and competent man-power to work under diverse agro-climatic and eco-zones of Nepal.
It is, therefore, important for the UAF authorities to educate the planners and decision makers on the nature of the requirements of the UAF teaching and get support from them. Without a wider support from the Government, stakeholders and the concerned others, any efforts made by the UAF may remain as A Cry in the Wilderness. Also it is very important to appoint the Right Man in the key positions of university administration and support them. Then only the man-power development will be achieved as expected.