Agriculture is perhaps the oldest known art and science in the history of mankind. The discovery by early human beings that they could sow seeds and grow plants on their own and hence food, was a huge step in forming the sedentary or domesticated lifestyle that human beings follow. With time, agriculture – like everything else changed and now is a complex field that needs to be kept afresh with ideas to support the burgeoning population of the world.
India, a few decades ago, was heavily dependent on agriculture. Even today it forms a major chunk of the Indian GDP. However, with a demographic shift towards cities, villages, which once boasted of farmers, are finding it difficult to sustain agricultural activities. The need is to make agriculture more mainstream and inviting for the younger population so that they take it up not as the last option but as a profession that demands as much dedication and passion as any other white-collar jobs.
As the Head of the Department of Mangalayatan University, Dr. Ranjana Tewari is sowing just the right seeds in her students. A Researcher, an Educator, Plant Breeder, and Floriculturist, Dr. Ranjana graduated from GBPUAT, Pantnagar in agriculture, did her Masters and PhD in Genetics & Plant Breeding from AAIDU, Prayagraj, and NDUAT, Faizabad, respectively. She has also worked in CSIR-NBRI, Lucknow and has been actively working in the field of research and education for the past ten years.
Coming from a family of educators, teaching was always on her mind. So we asked her what aided her to couple her love for teaching with the field of agriculture.
Here’s what Dr. Ranjana has to tell us about her passion to teach and her devotion to the noble cause of helping the agriculture industry and the farmers.
What inspired you to pursue agriculture studies as a career?
Though I am a lifetime student and I always love to learn, but I enjoy teaching others, even more, it’s in the family. Getting to know all of the different kids and interacting with them. I have always loved kids, so I always enjoy that part of my job. I think every teacher wants to have a long-lasting effect on their students and live forever in the form of their teachings.
I have learned that agriculture doesn’t require hundreds of books to mug up; rather, it needs passion and determination.
To pursue a carrier in agriculture is not easy; one has to love the soil and nature, needs the courage to get the hands dirty for food, and witness the miracle of crop life.
It’s part of our culture and tradition achieved through hard work via uniting people. The kind of positive impact that one can make to education, society, and agriculture sector simultaneously by pursuing agriculture as a carrier fascinated me to take agriculture as a carrier. As there is no more noble task than that of being able to feed the hunger, whether it’s for food or knowledge.
Pertaining to your experience of 10 years in the education sector, how, according to you, has the curriculum for agriculture studies improved over time?
During the past 10 years, agricultural education has expanded rapidly and explored the new areas of agriculture and allied sectors to meet the global demand for human resources and agricultural technology. Agriculture being a professional degree, the ICAR has made it more careers oriented by curricula changes for different undergraduate and post-graduate programs in India.
The new curricula recommendation by the fifth Dean’s Committee for the undergraduate courses with the aim to produce agricultural graduates with a strong background in modern science, value-added courses and skill development courses with important features of Rural Agricultural Work Experience (RAWE) to impart practical training in farmers’ fields, Plant clinic. Agro-industrial experiences, sustainable agriculture, natural resource management, watershed management, agriculture journalism, etc.
Tell us more about Mangalayatan University with regard to your department specifically.
Mangalayatan University is a “Gurukul of Global Education.” Here, we work towards a fine blend of values and global professional talents in the making of leaders for the future. The Department of Agriculture was established in 2018 under the Institute of Engineering & Technology and is strengthened with competent faculty, supporting infrastructure, and seventy-five Acre land. The primary focus of our curriculum is to impart technical knowledge to students, exposure to latest industry practices through several industrial visits, training during their course to have adequate exposure in tackling live problems encountered in working of the industrial entity.
To be the leading center providing student responsive education, farmer responsive training, and services for agriculture development and agro-industry.
- To train students to be skilled professional, with the hunger and ability to become leaders
- To bring global best practices to our students through the widespread use of technology
- To empower our faculty to constantly develop new skills and excel professionally
- To provide the best campus environment to students and faculty with all facilities to nurture their interests
What is your opinion on the inclusion of technology and smart devices in studying and /or researching within agriculture, and other mediums of education?
Teaching-learning aids like instructional use of computers, television, mobiles, the internet, and other kinds of electronic hardware and software play a key role in the understanding of the subjects to students as well as to the teacher. The amalgamation of smart teaching-learning technologies also has an important role in agriculture extension as it enhances the effect with ease for the lab to land programs.
The Agriculture faculty and researchers who conduct research and teach courses prefer educational technology uses more over conventional methods of teaching because it integrates process involving people, procedures, ideas, devices, the organization for analyzing problems, devising, implementing evaluating and managing solutions to field problems, in situations in which learning is purposive and controlled.
As an educator, what challenges have you faced while building a career in the education domain?
The biggest challenge always comes from the students and how their understanding can be enhanced, no matter how much knowledge you have, but how much and how better you can make them understand the topic is always a challenge as every mind is different and respond to every topic is different.
I began my career in research but sooner, I realized an educator inside me with a vision and believed for future innovative agriculture and skill-based smart education the world requires. So, I switched my job to college and then finally to university as an educator.
Following the zeal of learning by doing to achieve excellence as excellence brings success took me to the present position of HOD. For the first time, the Mangalayatan university started the department of agriculture under my headship. Thus, it’s the will that helps you overcome all the challenges.
Where do you see yourself in the near future?
I see myself and the Agriculture department of Mangalayatan University as a world leader in the field of innovative smart agriculture especially in crop improvement and exploring new areas of innovative agriculture like post-harvest agriculture management and smart agriculture technology etc.