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Agriculture needs new professionalism




  • Are our agriculture universities custodians of knowledge? They are not. Besides the other weaknesses that they have they are victims of and creators of transfer of obsolete knowledge. So a distinction has to be made between the concept of learning and that of teaching. Teaching implies the use of transfer of knowledge from one who knows to one who des not know, almost as if it was a flow of stock. That the perpetuator of that flow has the latest knowledge is verified by the teaching methodologies used by the teachers. That it is the old system of rote learning and giving notes from the 1930s that is n vogue. 

    Since we are looking at the institutional basis for the delivery of knowledge it may be worthwhile to examine the kind of interventions that may be changed to admit of better understanding of a delivery to the farmer of not a stagnant source of but a knowledge that has recently been developed by whatever sources. In this world of internet the sources of knowledge can be best understood by examining global knowledge critically and determining the level of adaptation that can take place. In decision making for instance what can the decision makers provide to areas that the centralized decision maker has never visited. So the shift from centralized decision to a decentralized decision making maybe necessary. It was Herbert Simon a management person who was given the Noble prize for Economics. In agriculture on the other hand no such management plan has ever been thought out. 

    The mode of planning and delivery is one in which the obsolete method of simple design and, fixed package, is simply pushed. We did this in the 60’s, 70’s when chemical fertilizers were pushed by generalists Deputy Commissioners and their staff. This was a catastrophe on the face of it. Now the system demands that the policy and design has to be flexible and given the wide choice is likely to be based on demand pull. That ought to take care of inflation in the food sector. Agriculture in Pakistan has been in the hands of poorly trained extension agents and this has now to go because these individuals do not understand the complexity of the issues that is to be handled. Since agriculture is time bound therefore the action has to be immediately taken and the monitoring factor is more seriously used for planning purposes. 

    The mode of learning has also to undergo serious changes. Basically how is the lab created knowledge to be taken to the field and then to the kitchen table by the extension services. Should there be dialogue between the farmer and the scientist or should there be participatory functions with the farmers. There are many kinds of such interactions. Where there is a mode of external learning the internal learning and the creation of new knowledge is or should be made mandatory. The libraries are badly stocked and have obsolete knowledge. Farmers have over the years developed new knowledge and that has to be acquired. That is only possible if there is trust between the agent of change and the knowledge deliverer. It is also now clear that the indicative surveys do not provide for the kind of detailed planning that is or maybe required. Internal learning loop is a single bonded one where the subject student only takes down notes. There is no later briefing and the vomit of that knowledge ensures success in any examination. It is in the nature of the society in which we live that social niceties are still maintained. The false praise that is heaped is counterproductive to what the actual situation is. On the other hand in the double loop system that ensures the elimination of psycho fancy. Double loop thinking is done through participatory monitoring and self evaluation processes. The self is critically developed and knows its objectivity. But can the self really evaluate itself in a society that is short on resources and there are hyenas in the social system ready to tear one apart. The question begs an answer and the short answer is that it will be brave men that will accept failure much less criticize them self.

    The real clamor is for creativity development. This is suppressed when the internal structures are regressive and seen as hostile, the natural reaction to this is a closing down of the personality. The cure for this is linked to taking risks and to accept failure on the part of the experimenter. Original mistakes are not punished and in fact there is an atmosphere of liberalism. Structural issues and institutional issues are also touched since any experimenter has to have a certain levels of comfort with the bosses. Finally the isolation of the research methodology has to be overcome by more connectivity. Individuals that work alone will not be able to handle the situation and individuals that work alone will not be able to have a critical mass. What are thus required are linkages both formal as well as informal in which multidiscipline groups may work as task force and provide critical futuristic objectives. This is for sure that the world has not been very innovative of late. 

    It is imperative that in the quest for the old to the new professionalism there is a profound requirement for agricultural institutions. That means the focus has to be not on what we learn but on how se learn and with whom. This implies that new roles developmental professionals. lading to a whole new professionalism with new concepts, values, methods and behavior. With the way the world has been taken to specialization the holistic view has suffered. Individuals turn to their own specialization and the club of experts does not allow others to enter their fold. They thus trend to be loners. In a growing complex world the single disciplinary work in areas that are remote from other humans. 

    The time has come to reexamine the actions of our academia and the HEC in order to obtain a balance between the various paradoxical situations that are emerging. Higher education commission is a misnomer as all its activities have now become secondary. If you do not believe me then it is better to seek the report from the farmers. Pakistan will not gain from more of the same. It has to radicalize itself as also the society; but innovation anywhere is difficult and implementation even more so because on entrenched groups.

    Original Article Here

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