Agricultural Education in Yemen: THE REALITY & THE AMBITION [Archives:1998/43/Business & Economy]

October 26 1998

Agriculture is one of the major sectors of the national economy. Roughly 62.1% of the population resides in rural areas and is involved in some aspect of agricultural production. Rural women provide at least 60% of the required labor for general farm work, 90% for livestock and dairy production and almost all activities of animal husbandry. Thus, enhancing agricultural output and improving rural life is vital. 
The colleges of agriculture at Sanaa, Aden and Ibb universities, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, organized a workshop on ‘Agricultural Education in Yemen: Reality and Ambition’ during October 17-19. 
Holding this workshop represents a good sign of giving due importance to agricultural education in Yemen. Since agriculture is considered to be the main economic activity of the Yemeni people, people in authority should plan well for the national economy and its resources, notably agriculture. Agricultural education is one of the key elements of improving the agricultural sector, for it prepares a good number of qualified people who shoulder the responsibility of carrying out agricultural development plans. People working in the agricultural sector represent 61% of the total labor force, producing 18% of the GNP. 
Several papers were presented at the workshop. Ismail Al-Ghabery of Yemen Times talked to some of the participants. Following is a summary of what they said. 
Prof. Nasser Al-Awlaqi, Rector of Ibb University: 
“The main problem is that high school graduates are not willing to join faculties of agriculture. I think the main reason for that is that the government has been the main employer of graduates from the faculties of agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture cannot possibly absorb all graduates of the colleges of agriculture. 
“A lot of these graduates, from Sanaa and Aden universities and other Arab universities, are jobless. In my opinion, this is one of the primary reasons why students are not willing to study agriculture. 
“So, I and the rectors of Sanaa and Aden universities decided to hold this workshop in an attempt to find a solution to the problem of agricultural development in Yemen. The workshop addressed four main issues: the role of colleges of agriculture in agricultural education and development, role of agricultural research in agricultural development, agricultural education and scientific research and the needs of agricultural development, and the role of women in agriculture. 
“Women actually play a very important role in agriculture and we try to get more female students in the faculties of agriculture and to train women working in the agricultural field. 
“The participants also addressed the agricultural development policy in Yemen and its problems. Yemen is facing a big problem which is the wide gap between consumption and production. Yemen over last year has had to import 1,800,000 tons of wheat. The annual production of wheat is only 100,000 – 120,000 tons. 
“Water is another problem facing agriculture in Yemen. There is a shortage and bad management of water resources. I think the recommendations of the workshop addressed these problems. The colleges of agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and the private sector have to address these problems otherwise we will face a big problem in production.” 
Dr. Abdullah Al-Mousa, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Jordan: 
“I think this workshop represents a sort of a stop to reflect back on what has been done and what we can do and the role of agriculture in general in Yemen in sustainable development. The recommendations that have been presented will hopefully solve the problems.” 
Prof. Hamid Ghaloob Ali, Dean of Agriculture College, Ibb University: 
“First of all we want to study and evaluate the reality of agriculture in Yemen. Second, we will propose a plan of action for future development in agriculture education and its output. The input is the new students and we are looking forward for the output. 
“This workshop considers the education, admission, and scientific research related to agriculture development, role of women in agricultural education and agricultural education and the environment. 
“There are 71 students currently registered in our college, which has a very good program. The college farm has a very high standard of production; a hundred kilograms of milk, 30 cartons of eggs. We also sell chickens. The college will held a symposium on the environment in Yemen. 
“This workshop has succeeded in its program and there is a kind of interaction among the students, faculties and among the presenters of the papers. This led to specific recommendations which are helpful for the students of agriculture as well as agricultural scientific research. I advice students in Yemen to join the colleges of agriculture because they are related to food production, which means food security to the country. No food means no life.” 
Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Saba’a, Faculty of Agriculture, Damascus University: 
“Papers presented at the workshop could tackle all the problems discussed by the participants. Concluding the event, the participants made several recommendations, which, if applied, will evolve the process of agriculture in Yemen. The agricultural education in Yemen is in a good position and our friends want to push it forward.” 
Dr. Hussein Abdulrahman Al-Kaf, Dean of Nasser College for Agricultural Sciences, Aden University: 
“The participation of teaching staff from agriculture colleges in Yemen, the Ministry of Agriculture and the private sector led to useful discussions and recommendations. 
“Agriculture is really the pillar of development in Yemen, hence it has to be given special care and attention. We should also take care of agricultural institutes for preparing qualified agriculture workers. 
Universities should open new departments such as food industry, rural development, etc. One of the main problems facing colleges of agriculture in Yemen is that they are short of laboratories and chemical materials and appliances. They are also short of audio-visual aids.” 
By the end of the workshop, the participants recommended the following: 
1- It is important to develop the infrastructure of agricultural education through allocating more funds in the annual university budget and providing job opportunities for the graduates of agriculture faculties. 
2- A balance should be struck between the output of agricultural education and the needs of the agricultural sector, providing an intensive plan for the need of the labor market in different specializations. 
3- Training courses for people working in agriculture are vital to raise their work efficiency. Supporting scientific agricultural research is also crucial. 
4- Natural protection should be provided in order to preserve bio-diversity in Yemen. 
6- A committee of the deans of colleges of agriculture should be formed to follow up the implementation of these recommendations. 
7- An effective media and information policy should be formulated to raise public awareness of the role of the faculties of agriculture. 
8- Registration and admission procedures of students in the faculties of agriculture should be central all over Yemen, taking into account the students’ overall high school grades. 
9- Students of agriculture my be further motivated by providing them with free accommodation and food during their studies, and giving them plots of lands to cultivate after graduation. 
10- The sciences of agricultural resources management, anti-desertification, pastures development, etc should be included in the syllabuses of the faculties of agriculture in Yemeni universities. 
11- More coordination should be instituted between the colleges of agriculture and the general authority for agricultural research in the field of agricultural researches.