The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is starting special courses on sustainable agriculture and food security for northeastern India. The northeastern region, comprising eight states, covers 7.7 % of India's geographical area but produces only 1.5 % of the country's foodgrains. Seventy percent of the region's 40 million people depend on agriculture and allied sectors, underlining the need for special education in these fields. IGNOU set up a national centre for open and distance learning in research and training in agriculture (ICRTA) in Tripura capital Agartala last November to develop human resources for agriculture and agro-based industries through open and distance learning.
The ICRTA on Monday held a brainstorming session here on capacity building and vocational and non-formal education in agriculture. Top officials of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), IGNOU's regional directors, experts, NGO representatives, forest officials and professionals
from different states of the region took part. The session was chaired by R.K. Samanta, vice-chancellor of the Bidhan Chandra agricultural university in West Bengal. The experts finalised 12 entrepreneurship development courses for seven of the northeastern states, excluding Assam. The new courses, to be conducted in English and local languages, include horticulture nursery management, honey production and processing, value addition in fruits and vegetables, bio-fertiliser and bio-pesticides production, livestock production and management, fish production and management, mushroom production and marketing, production and marketing of turmeric and orchids, pig farming and production and value addition to the famous chillies of the region.