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Indians Avoid Agriculture Studies Due to Lack of Awareness

The 107th edition of the Indian Science Congress scheduled from January 3-7 is currently underway at the University of Agricultural Sciences here

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Stubble Burning, Odisha, North India
Agriculture in Odisha is the mainstay of the majority of the populace. Pixabay

Many Indian students are not taking up agricultural studies due to lack of awareness, an Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) official said on Monday at the first-ever Farmers’ Science Congress held at the ongoing 107th Indian Science Congress.

“There are a lot of opportunities in agricultural education in India. Perhaps it is the lack of knowledge about opportunities on agricultural studies that many students gravitate towards engineering and medical education,” said ICAR’s Deputy Director General for Education, R. C. Agrawal.

In an effort to popularise agricultural education among students, ICAR will organise 48 workshops in February, he said.

“We will meet school teachers, principals and science teachers to explain the available agricultural education opportunities,” said Agrawal.

The ICAR has teamed up with the World Bank to create the National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP), with a budget of Rs 1,100 crore, each contributing 50 per cent.

“With no knowledge of agriculture practices and requirements of a particular farmer, they try to push their products for some extra profit and as a result the farmers either suffer crop losses or end up incurring huge expenditure.” Pixabay

ICAR has already sent 300 students and 18 faculty members to study in international universities through NAHEP in the last one year.

It has a target of sending 2,000 students and 300 faculty members, to expose the students to best practices and return with many fresh ideas.

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“NAHEP is aimed at ensuring food security, sufficient resources and solving farmers’ problems,” said Agrawal hoping that the students will become job creators and not job seekers.

The 107th edition of the Indian Science Congress scheduled from January 3-7 is currently underway at the University of Agricultural Sciences here. (IANS)

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New Locust Swarms Threaten Agriculture in Ethiopia

New Swarms of Locusts Threaten Crops, Food Security in Ethiopia

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Locust Ethiopia
An Ethiopian boy attempts to fend off desert locust as they fly in a farm on the outskirt of Jijiga in Somali region, Ethiopia. VOA

A new round of locust swarms has hit Ethiopia and is again threatening crops and food security, say agricultural officials.

Dereje Hirpha, the Oromia region’s head of locust control, tells VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that the new generation of locusts was first reported weeks ago in the Raya district and has since spread across thousands of hectares in 40 districts of the region.

The fast-moving swarm is threatening crops in a country where more than 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood.

Locust Outbreak
A Samburu boy uses a wooden stick to try to swat a swarm of desert locust filling the air, as he herds his camel. VOA

Similar locusts wave hit Ethiopia a year ago.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it believes heavy rainfall in East Africa has contributed to the growth of locust swarms in the area.

This new generation is arriving from Somaliland, while breeding has continued on both sides of the Red Sea, and in Sudan and Eritrea, according to experts.

USAID plans to work with the U.N. Food  and Agriculture Organization to prevent and control the spread of locusts, its office of communication says.  The agency is training more than 300 pest experts and providing 5,000 sets of protective equipment for locust fighters.

Hirpha says authorities are spraying the affected areas from planes and vehicles on the ground to ward off the pests.

Locals, meanwhile, are engaged in their own combat operation.  When a locust swarm approaches, residents try to scare them away by blowing whistles, drumming empty buckets, setting fires, and shooting into the air.

Locust chasers take position in green areas to disperse the swarms before the descend.

Locust Ethiopia
A man tries to catch locust while standing on a rooftop. VOA

“From a distance the swarm looks like a brown cloud, a sandstorm,” says Sora Kura, one of the chasers in the Borana zone.

The swarm follows the wind direction and is also guided by hairy antenna on their heads that detect smells and other signals of food, Hirpha says. According to the FAO, the swarms can move up to 150 kilometers per day.

USAID says the swarms will likely spread next to southwest Ethiopia and northwestern Kenya, and may enter Uganda and South Sudan.

Desert locusts can comfortably live in a warm, sandy environment like Eastern Ethiopia and Somaliland, Hirpha says.

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Ethiopia has to report any assessment of the crops lost to the pests.  In 2003 and 2005, locust outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mainly in North Africa, cost farmers $3.6 billion, according to the FAO. (VOA)