Agriculture is a knowledge based endeavour and nowhere has benefitted more greatly from new agricultural practices than India. Through use of techniques embodied in the Green Revolution, the country has gone from a food deficit to a net exporter of some grains. At the same time, India stands to benefit from a new generation of technologies to improve the sustainability of farming, improve water efficiency, and increase production in a broad range of crops to address the hunger that remains the country.
Impressively, agricultural universities have increased in number and scale recently, however, they need to address many shared challenges. At a conference in February, 2013, Mark Holderness and Ajit Maru of GFAR Secretariat provided information on the implications of the GCARD process and the role of educational institutions in transforming agricultural knowledge systems for greater development impact. The Conference participants developed a Roadmap for transformative change in Indian agricultural education including:
- Universities must be able to generate new ideas and this requires greater administrative, financial and scientific autonomy and increased investment, beyond that of staff costs.
- Centres of excellence and more merit-based rewards and quality assurance for research, teaching, extension and entrepreneurship were also proposed on a competitive basis, to increase impacts and active and continuous long –term relationships were recommended to be fostered with external partners, to ensure a flow of new ideas.
- With increased investment must come effective targeting for greater impact. Increasing investments in some areas will also mean cuts and restructuring in others and some hard choices clearly lie ahead for India.
- The Brazilian LABEX-like programs of Scientific Exchanges could also usefully be adopted into Indian institutions, as well as greater cooperation with World Bank, US, FAO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CGIAR, GFAR and other International Agencies.
- There is a strong need for international mentorship programs for education, training and collaborative research and establishing public–private–industry partnerships and internships.
- It is essential that Universities listen to their customers, the voices of youth, and foster the new skills and opportunities required to make agriculture and rural work exciting and attractive to young people: these include ICTs, molecular biology, entrepreneurship, nutrition and health, social sciences, ecology, food chain value addition and many others.
- Moreover, gender equity issues have never been more publicly discussed than at present and the Congress flagged the clear need to provide innovative opportunity and mentoring for young women to enter and succeed in agricultural careers.