Agricultural science curriculum for Messiah Theological Institute in Mbale, Uganda: A needs assessment
Kipkurgat, Thomas Korir
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This dissertation presents an assessment of needs associated with the development of an agricultural science curriculum at Messiah Theological Institute in Uganda. The long-term objective of this research was to explore strategies and to establish courses that will improve agriculture among schools and rural communities in Uganda. Agriculture is evolving considerably due to advent of technology. As a result of climate variability and other land use demands, there has been considerable concern compounded with poor methods of farming in Uganda. Understanding the needs and development of agriscience programs is a big challenge confronting agricultural production in Uganda. This dissertation reports major concerns and possible solutions of improving agricultural programs through effective establishment of agricultural science curriculum. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing more than 84 percent of the total labor force and generating over 42.5 percent of the gross national product (WRI, 2000). Agriculture is the main business enterprise people in local areas may eradicate poverty. Agriculture continues to decline every day, partly from shortage of labor, poor technology use, urbanization, and farm sizes resulting from land use competitions (New Vision, 2005). Uganda population is predominantly rural and farmers need basic tools and demonstration plots to improve agricultural practices. The strength of Uganda economy lies in the potential of its food production and sustainability. Vocational education in agriculture needs to be offered to improve farming practices, particularly to rural farmers The data for this study was collected during August of 2005 in Mbale, Uganda. The research process consisted of five steps. The first step was distribution of questionnaires to convenient sample (n=40) at Messiah Theological Institute during information gathering session and (n=50) were distributed during rural visits. The second data collection was conducted using one-on-one interviews (n=20). One-on-one interview participants were known by experts to be knowledgeable about agriculture. Third collection process was conducted using open-ended questionnaires (n=26). Distribution of open ended questionnaire was conducted within the six districts. Open-ended provided participants greater freedom of expression and to qualify their information in-depth. The fourth process involved five focus groups with 37 total participants. Participants were identified by experts to attend the focus group discussion including nongovernmental organizations, rural farmers and government officials. Finally, rural visits (n=6) was conducted in, Pallisa, Kumi, Kapchorwa, Tororo, Lira and Mbale districts. This study concluded that agricultural education for the future of agriculture in Uganda was necessary. In the development of agricultural curriculum, three dimensions of agriculture must be considered. These are a) agriculture for sustainability and security in Uganda society, b) agriculture to reduce poverty among rural poor and for sustainability of economy, and c) agriculture for a sustainable environment. This study recommended that the establishment of agricultural curriculum at MTI will facilitate the training of agricultural courses geared towards improving food production and poverty reduction. In order to improve the livelihood and offer appropriate courses, key constraints such as infrastructure, cultural issues, courses and education content and financial constraints needs to be addressed. Vocational training should be developed to assist rural farmers and meaningful experiential learning strongly recommended for future MTI students. Agricultural training should serve the local clientele. Developments of educational programs such as demonstration workshops and should be improved to teach rural communities better farming practices. Rural farmers lack extensionist to assist with agricultural practices and therefore assessing the needs associated with curriculum development is crucial. Therefore, recommended courses should include: soil conservation, animal husbandry, farm preparation, stocking rates, breeding techniques, natural resource conservation should be offered during initial stages of MTI. Offering these beginning courses at certificate program/level and vocational training will prepare students for degree courses such as agricultural extension, animal science, agronomy, food technology, and veterinary science.