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From land to lab to learn more

Amutha Kannan

Farmers, pesticide and fertilizer shop owners take up B.F. Tech programme at TNAU

— Photo: M. Periasamy

For the love of it:A farmer (right), who studies Bachelor of Farm Technology at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in the Open and Distance Learning mode, sharing his experience on completing a semester of the course at the university in Coimbatore on Saturday.

COIMBATORE: She has just completed a semester of a degree programme at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). Forty-four-year-old Sarasu Muthusamy is not eager to complete the course to land a job but to pursue agriculture for the love of it.

Hailing from a family of farmers in Bhavani, she could only complete Standard IX before getting married to a textile mill employee. Disappointed that neither her husband nor her two professionally qualified sons had a penchant for agriculture, she decided to undergo the course and take up agriculture as a profession.

She is one among the first batch of 229 students pursuing the three-year B.F. Tech. programme offered by the Directorate of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) of the university for farmers. After clearing the first semester examinations, some of them were at the university on Saturday to participate in the first contact class of the second semester. There are 10 such contact classes in each semester.

“When I heard about the course, I shared my eagerness with my family who were supportive of my decision. But I could not apply because the eligibility criteria was an appearance in Standard X,” she says.

The determined woman cleared the Standard X exams and applied for the degree course at TNAU. Today, she is full of pride and confidence because of the knowledge she had gained over six months and the fact that experiments that she conducted on her fields had borne fruit.

Farmers, pesticide and fertilizer shop owners, some central government employees, were part of the same course. The age group varied from 27 years to 80 years. That was the only difference among them. All shared a common goal to do something for agriculture.

The university began this unique course, which, it says, is the first of its kind for any State agricultural university in the world, in November 2010. After six months, it has turned out to be more than a success. The faculty of the ODL and the students of the programme are charged up “like youth” to excel. The experiences they shared have proved that learning is mutual and goes beyond the call of duty.

The eldest student, 80-year-old agriculturist Anbu Sundaranand from Thirumalayampalayam near Coimbatore, opted for the course even after having 70 years of farming experience. This he did because he firmly believes that “farmers should know technology”. An organic farmer, he hopes to be a bridge between the university and other farmers. He rattles off the names of various technologies, the advantages of organic farming, and stepping up cotton production by using nano-technology. And he did not consider the examinations as difficult.

With the technologies he has learnt in just six months, Nallasamy from Andhiyur has been able to reduce the number of labourers on his farm from 10 to one, thanks to mechanisation. Many like him who now hold a pen, believe that they may not go back to holding a plough because of technology.

Since all of them have years of experience, do they not feel that they know better than what the university is able to offer them. All of them answer in the negative. And they also explain why.

Pughazhendi from Mysore says: “All of us know something about agriculture. But we all make mistakes because we are not trained farmers. Now, we not only know about all the practices, but also know how well to organise all of those in an efficient manner.”

V. Valluvaparidasan, Director of ODL, and his team are a proud lot. Conceding that it is difficult to teach an older and informed lot, he says the team is enjoying teaching them because the students' eagerness to learn is so infectious.

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