Strengthening of Vocational Education and Training for food security

Myanmar’s agriculture has under-performed over the past fifty years, which translates in low productivity, innovation and regional competitiveness. The low farm productivity translates into high rates of poverty and food insecurity, with about one quarter of the population falling below the national poverty line.

In recent years, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) at the ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MoALI) invested a limited percentage of its budget on education and extension activities, although it is responsible for agricultural research and extension, seed multiplication and plant health services.

Nonetheless, Burma/Myanmar has ample opportunities for rapid agricultural development relying on its abundant (under-capitalised) land and water resources and its strategic geographic position between China and India, two potentially huge consumer markets for agricultural products. The government sees agriculture as an effective way to reduce poverty and has identified agriculture as a priority sector.

In the thirty-year Master Plan for Agricultural Development developed by the MoALI, covering the period 2001-02 to 2030-31, one of the objectives set out for Agricultural Development is encouraging diploma, bachelor, master and doctoral degree holders; undertake research, extension and training activities. The demand for TVET is expected to increase over the next two decades.

Currently formal agricultural TVET education is offered by the 14 State Agricultural Institutes (SAI) that fall under the financial and administrative accountability of Department of Agriculture. The SAI’s deliver job ready agricultural technicians every year, principally extension workers.

The current curriculum for the SAI’s does not adequately reflect the national vision or the sectoral demands for an agricultural sector of tomorrow that Burma/Myanmar envisages. There is considerable room for improvement looking at SAI teaching methods, also in the light of the requirements that the workforce should have according to agribusiness/agro food sector.