Learning about more appropriate farming systems Changes in agricultural education

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Formal agricultural education remained a priority and to some extent was strengthened over the decade. Schools in the Countryside (Escuelas del Campo) had existed since the 1970s and encouraged an understanding of agriculture amongst the youth (Rosset and Benjamin, 1994). From 1995, basic agriculture was an option on the syllabus of most primary school courses in Cuba. Additionally, ANAP started a programme to teach children within CPA and CCS cooperatives whilst they worked in the fields for half their time. At the start of the Special Period, agricultural polytechnics were instigated in every municipality, each affiliated to a local Mixed Crops Enterprise. Organic agriculture was included as part of the syllabus, and this necessitated a retraining of teachers in this subject (Crespo and Alvarez, 1999). Every university contained a department of agriculture, and of the 600,000 college graduates in Cuba, 27 per cent held agricultural degrees (Lane, 1999). The Agricultural University of Havana (UNAH) in particular had over 10,000 part- and full-time diploma, degree and higher-degree agricultural students at any one time. This enabled continued widespread technical support for the agricultural sector, with 24,000 qualified agronomists nationwide in 1996 (Ramirez, 1997, quoted by Lane, 1999). For some institutional staff, formal retraining was organized; for example, plant health specialists underwent training on biological pest controls, and some extension staff were trained in participatory approaches. For most, however, the feeling was that the greatest training needs lay with farmers, and also, as one ministry official explained, 'It would be difficult to retrain the researchers because time would be required to change mentalities.'

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