This article was originally written by Winrock International.
Since 2013, VEGA Member Winrock International has mobilized eight volunteers representing six US universities through the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, to help to strengthen the College of Agriculture Sciences at the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT) in Bangladesh. As part of its countrywide outreach, IUBAT cooperates with 216 public and private Agriculture Training Institutes (ATIs) that enroll 20,000 students each year. F2F fielded four volunteers in collaboration with IUBAT to train 22 principals and teachers from 12 ATIs around the country on agriculture education management, pedagogy, agriculture extension, and communication.
One of these F2F volunteers, Dr. Leslie Edgar, Associate Professor and Director of International Programs for the Bumpers College at the University of Arkansas, explained, “The student body at IUBAT is unique in that it has a large subset of graduates from the ATIs. IUBAT was the first university in Bangladesh to offer admission to these diploma holders. The ATI graduates are students who normally were raised in production agriculture settings and took study at an ATI instead of secondary school so that they could enhance their skill sets in agriculture. With this background, a lot of the students at IUBAT have struggled financially to make a bachelors degree achievable.”
IUBAT created a student ambassadors program to recruit more students among ATI graduates. The student ambassadors are ATI graduates who are now bachelor’s students at IUBAT. By fielding agricultural education experts to train faculty and administrators from both IUBAT and the ATIs, F2F is creating multiple paths for students to obtain a high quality education in agricultural fields. As a result of better linkages with the ATIs, IUBAT’s agriculture degree enrollment increased from 261 students in 2015 to 306 students this year. With F2F assistance, the university is also strengthening its gender activities. Dr. Shohidullah Miah, IUBAT’s Director of the College of Agricultural Sciences, has appointed six female faculty as focal points to help address gender in AET services and curriculum.
Dr. Miah notes that F2F volunteers also helped to improve IUBAT’s fisheries, agriculture extension and communication, and animal science courses. In addition to updating course content, volunteers showed 15 faculty how to integrate more hands-on activities at a low cost by visiting farmers’ fields, research institutes, and private farms. IUBAT has since increased field-based learning using the Haor Project in Brahmanbaria district, a new Agricultural Research Station in Bandarban district, an Agricultural Farm in Gazipur district, and a Field Lab in Jamalpur district. F2F also linked professors to ACI Agribusiness and the NGO BRAC, which are now providing internships for IUBAT students.