IT is disappointing that not many students in Papua New Guinea are taking agricultural studies despite having the opportunity to be an agricultural nation.
Not only is this happening here, there is growing concern worldwide that young people have become disenchanted with agriculture.
More than 80 per cent of PNG’s population live in rural areas and practice subsistence agriculture.
The majority of people are highly dependent on the country’s forests and rivers for their food security and to meet basic needs.
The agriculture sector has always been the backbone of PNG’s economy and successful partnership programmes are needed to address impediments in growth.
At Independence, the country had among its chief exports coffee, copra, cocoa and tea.
These cash crops were one of the first means for the people to make their own revenue and take part in the local economy.
Strengthening agriculture can produce positive ripple effects in a country’s economy.
Investments in agricultural development can help reduce poverty.
Agriculture has been at the centre of recent economic progress for many developing nations.
Most governments are taking concrete actions to address the problem and there is a clear recognition of strengthening agriculture and food systems in a manner that brings more affordable, healthier and diverse food options within everyone’s reach.
Revenue from agriculture could cater for the increasing expenditure the Government had to take care of, given the increasing population over the years.
In the coming years, there will be a growing need for farmers, horticulturists, agronomists and other related careers where many people can settle.
Former Department of Higher Education Research Science and Technology (DHERST) secretary Fr Jan Czuba pointed out that one of the common misconceptions about why students did not take up studies in the agriculture was that it was only limited to farming and animal husbandry.
What many do not realise is that agriculture provides a wide range of career opportunities for students, so studying agriculture could be a way for many to find success.
While agricultural programmes are widely available at the tertiary level, they’re even less common at the primary and secondary level of education.
Many young people, especially in developing countries, tend to shy away from agriculture.
One way to get them interested in taking up agricultural studies is to engage them in agriculture in their early schooling years.
The one advantage we have is that PNG is an agricultural nation.
While we know agriculture based on knowledge passed on from our fathers, we should now adapt to the changing practice in the world.
At the same time, concerns over climate change and its adverse effects on food security and environmental degradation are rising.
For instance; extreme weather changes such as heat waves and water scarcity are negatively affecting crop production.
The United Nations has warned that climate change is driving global hunger.
The trend is changing and growing.
Support for the agriculture sector is increasing.
Attitudes toward agriculture are already changing.
Young people are now speaking up for themselves on why they choose agriculture and they should be encouraged and supported especially at an early age.
There’s no denying the importance of general education as it lays the foundation for a child’s future, but the agriculture curriculum can equip students with practical life skills that can help them in both their future personal and professional lives.
The ball is now thrown to guidance officers.