Natural Resources College graduates shun rural areas

Natural Resources College (NRC) students keep shunning working in rural areas, Nyasa Times has established.

Of the about 500 graduates that government roped for agricultural work in rural areas of Malawi last year, a country that depends on agriculture for its survival, only 200 reported from work. The government allows at least three months in which to report or have their places forfeited.

“We have this serious situation where graduates shun government offers for work in Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) under district agriculture development offices (DADOs) and prefer to work with non-governmental organisations that operate at town and district levels,” revealed a top official at the college, where animal and crop husbandry technicians are trained.

He also said that most of the students are ‘town folk’ whose only interests are the certifications and that government had had a break in employing the graduates, only conducting the exercise last year.

With the shortage of agricultural extension officers, Malawi is training 'lead farmers' who pass on farming technologies to their peers.

NRC’s highest level is now diploma, after upgrading from certificates. The courses last 2 and a half years of class and field attendance. There are also extra months of attachments in various agricultural areas around the country.

Two students who asked for anonymity said they would never work for government which sends them to rural areas.

“What am I going to do there? I have been sent to rural areas of Mangochi, Zomba and Mulanje and to tell you the truth, I was lonely and the places are very rural in these EPAs. I would rather seek
employment with NGOs like World Vision where the pay is good and others. Forget I would want to go there. We attend this course just to get the certifications,” said one, who has just finished her course and is dropping letters for employment.

Her friend said there was no entertainment around EPAs and communication is hard.

“We might all be trained as farmers here, spending time in fields and then at the docile EPAs. I for one would rather go back home and rot than go to these areas,” she said, when asked why they would abuse their qualifications and worse the space at the college which would otherwise have gone to deserving and willing students failing to get places.

The school official, who also confided that the new certification is only appreciated by those that are upgrading since government does no longer accept certificates holders but the newly introduced diplomas, lamented that students were not serious with their studies.

“Most of these are children from well-to-do families and give little attention to studies,” he worried.

NRC will now be combined with Bunda Collage of Agriculture as one University. Earlier, graduated NRC students would seek place at Bunda to get degree level education.

Currently courses include diplomas in Agriculture & Natural Resources Management, in Animal Health & Production, in Horticulture, in Environmental Management for Sustainable Development, in Food Nutrition and Livelihood Security, and in Land Administration.

Initially the agricultural and natural resources training institution, situated some 16 kilometres from the capital city, on the Lilongwe – Mchinji road, was established in 1969 under the Ministry of
Agriculture and Natural Resources to provide training for technical assistance in the field of agriculture, and would include all pre-service training for the ministry’s extension staff.

It lies on a 270 hectare estate complete with a farm, and natural forests.

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