United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Food & Enterprise Development (FED) program for Liberia said its New Diploma in Agriculture (NDA) curriculum is technically very sound and cutting-edge for the study of Agriculture across the West African sub-region.
USAID FED’s Technical Education Specialist, Cristina Caltagirone of Louisiana State University in America, says the curriculum for agriculture education is one of the strongest curricula she has ever seen, describing it as ‘significantly better than the original. “I say so because it (NDA) expanded the curriculum to emphasize leadership, communications and entrepreneurship, which is specific to the Liberian context,” Madam Caltagirone said in an exclusive interview over the weekend.
According to her, the curriculum fulfils the need for productive skills for Liberians.
The curriculum, developed with huge technical support from FED, was done in collaboration with the Ministries of Education, Agriculture and Youth & Sports. It is a customized version of the one developed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS.) The diploma is recognized as an authentic education credential in all West African states.
For two years, FED and MOE used Nigeria’s vocational agriculture curriculum as a foundation; adapting it to the Liberian context, market demands and needs of Liberia’s youth. In addition to core courses like Crop Cultivation, Irrigation, Soil Science and Animal Husbandry, the Liberian diploma program includes essential knowledge and skills-building in key areas of Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Communications.
For USAID FED’s Communications Specialist, Nicholas Pakinson, “USAID FED is really excited and proud to showcase Liberia's first ECOWAS-integrated Vocational Training Program in Agriculture;’” describing it as a critical step in the development of a successful agriculture sector in Liberia.
He noted that building the agriculture workforce will result in better farmers and higher production of food for the Liberian consumer.
Mr. Albert N. Bass is FED’s Vocational Education Specialist. He emphasized that though NDA is a laudable success, stakeholders in Liberia’s technical and vocational education training sector must ensure that curriculums are developed in other technical vocational and education training (TVET) disciplines to complete the TVET package. “This curriculum is a milestone, but we need curriculums in other areas like electronics, electricity, mechanics, masonry, carpentry,” he said.
The NDA is Liberia’s first market-based, regionally integrated vocational training program in agriculture and will in September 2014 go into effect at four USAID FED-supported Centers of Excellence in Agriculture located at the Nimba, Lofa and Grand Bassa Community Colleges and at the Booker T. Washington Institute (BWI) in Margibi County.
Up to 2012, Liberia had no curriculum in agriculture. The NDA is its first fully-approved ECOWAS curriculum and represents an important step towards regional integration. It is an innovative, skills-focused two-year vocational diploma that prepares high school graduates to move directly into agricultural employment in the formal sector or through entrepreneurship.
Students will graduate with marketable, in-demand skills that will give them expanded employment options tied to the country’s growing agricultural market and industry needs. USAID FED’s Centers of Excellence in agriculture will lead the practical training program through demonstration farms, extension services and showcasing of best practices and innovations in agri-business.
“The agriculture diploma is perhaps most important for Liberia’s workforce. The new diploma will be a valuable part of the process to equip Liberian farmers with practical skills in order to support the growing agricultural sector and improve long-term sustainability of farming,” a USAID FED press release last week quoted MOE’s Director of TVET, Saku Dukuly.
USAID FED’s Chief of Party Agnes Luz: “These skills are critical to the needs of a post-conflict Liberia in the process of rebuilding its agricultural markets and connecting them to the region. The National Diploma for Agriculture will improve overall capacity of future farmers; the added bonus is that Liberian youth will also acquire the skills, such as record keeping and financial management, needed to create a business.
“These skills play a key role in addressing not only the immediate employment needs of graduates, but also the development and growth of the agricultural and food production sectors of the country.”
Curriculum piloting is underway at the Nimba County Community College (NCCC) where students are testing a total of eight courses including Agri-business and Soil Fertility & Crop Nutrition. After the two-year program is rolled-out at the Centers of Excellence, lessons learned and best practices will be consolidated to guide the expansion of the curriculum to four more vocational training centers in Liberia under the MOE in 2016.