Wetenschap - 9 januari 1997

International Page

International Page

International Page
Recognition for farmers knowledge
Farmers were happy to share their own knowledge and experiences. They really liked the idea that a thesis for a MSc degree can be prepared using the knowledge they have, says Govinda Sharma. Himself Nepalese, Sharma did his field research in the Jhiku Khola watershed area in central Nepal
Sharma's work focused on making an inventory of farmers' knowledge and practices regarding soil and water management in the area. Last Monday January 6 Sharma, an MSc student in the Ecological Agriculture programme, presented the results of his thesis research
Sharma explains that for farmers soil and water management is almost synonymous with the local farming system. Cultivation takes place on small terraces on steep slopes. Over the years more and more land has been brought under cultivation to feed the growing population. Land degradation is one of the major drawbacks of this process which has resulted in soil loss and reduced yields. 80% of the rain falls in a relatively short period which is also the time when most soil tillage takes place. This means that the soils are extremely vulnerable to erosion
Sharma's inventory of farmers' knowledge indicates that farmers have adopted a variety of measures to cope with the problems of erosion and yield loss. Farmers have managed to increase production over the decades by applying chemical fertilizer in the 1960s, introducing improved crop varieties in the 1970s and at present by increasing biomass production to fight soil depletion. On the other hand farmers are also well aware of gully erosion and how to control it. According to Sharma farmers' knowledge is dynamic but the rate of change of knowledge is at present slower than that of the needs of the community. The sustainability and stability of the system are in question. He feels that it would be possible to improve the soil and water management system by using farmers' knowledge and trying to bridge the gap between farmers external government agents, development agencies and universities through improved communication
Perennial crops are planted for practical reasons at the outer edges of the terraces. This happens to be a practice which is also a good way of controlling erosion. However, farmers clear the raised sides of the terraces. Erosion would be less if they grew grasses, which they could also use as fodder for their buffaloes. Sharma states that farmers are rich in knowledge which they incorporate in their skills, traditions, culture and rituals. They even know about the effect of irrigation water on the quality of the milk of their animals. However, he explains that farmers themselves want development which they perceive as things which are new and sophisticated and as a result indigenous knowledge is being given up
Christmas shoes
The Capitulatiezaal in Hotel de Wereld was filled to overflowing for the Christmas celebration organised by the Student Chaplaincy. Some people had to make do with peering through the door from the next room. Everyone who came for the service was welcomed with a buttonhole, and before and afterwards there was Christmas bread, tea, coffee and hot chocolate on offer. Students from six different countries prepared the service which was led by Reverend Hinne Wagenaar. The service ended up with an unexpected theme: shoes. There was a pair of shoes on the front of the Order of Service booklet, the collection was for shoes for Romanian children and the Christmas story was about Daddy Panov, a shoemaker
Jesus spoke to Daddy Panov, and said that he would visit him at Christmas. Daddy Panov decided to make the most beautiful shoes he had ever made to give Jesus as a gift. A poor street sweeper and a mother with a small child came by. The shoemaker gave them food and drink, and gave away the beautiful shoes, but at the end of the day he was still waiting for Jesus. As he sat disappointedly in his chair he heard a voice: Didn't you see me, Daddy Panov? For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. Daddy Panov smiled, and the twinkle in his eye returned behind his funny little round glasses
Each participant received a paper shoe with a quote from the bible and best wishes for Christmas and the new year. There was also Indonesian music from Loekas Soesanto and friends, and everyone was invited to light a candle during the service. Many students said a prayer for the family at home, some in their own language
25 years postgraduate education celebrated
This is the 25th academic year that WAU has offered English language education to international students. To celebrate the occasion the University is organising a symposium in cooperation with the International Agricultural Centre (IAC). The symposium will be held on January 29 and the subject will be perspectives on the further development of international education at WAU
At present some 175 international students join one of the 15 international postgraduate programmes each year. Of the 140 PhD degrees granted each year by the University, 25 are awarded to international graduates. According to the symposium organizers, developments are expected to be even more rapid and significant in the coming years. The merger of WAU with the Agricultural Research Council and the IAC to form the Wageningen Knowledge Centre will speed up the process. The Knowledge Centre's target area will stretch beyond the Netherlands, says Martha Bloemberg, one of the organizers and MAKS programme coordinator. She feels that it is time to take the development of international education at WAU in hand. According to Bloemberg other Dutch universities and institutes for higher education have been quicker to do this and are even overtaking WAU. This is the impression she has gained from her participation in workshops on internationalisation in education
A few years ago other Dutch universities reluctantly started trying to attract international students, but insisted they learn Dutch before they could start a study in the Netherlands. Now these institutions are rapidly adapting their programmes to the international students' needs. Bloemberg hopes that the symposium will yield bright ideas, and that it will at least fuel the discussion on how to proceed with postgraduate education at WAU. The symposium is open to everyone. Please contact the Director of the Soil and Water programme through his external E-mail address: Tini.v.MensvoortBodLan. BenG.WAU.NL
Meet the Wisp'r
Wageningen University Paper invites all MSc and PhD students (and everyone else who is interested) to discuss with the Wisp'r editors what sort of information and articles you want to read during your stay in Wageningen. Here are some ideas
  • information from the university about education, science, rules and legislation
  • human interest, social items, cultural events and opinions from fellow travellers
  • information on other courses in English in Holland and from graduate schools of other universities
  • suggestions: how to escape the Dutch winter
    Does the Wisp'r page meet your expectations? Wed like to hear your views and priorities over a cup of tea or coffee
    Date: 24 January
    Place: ISOW-building, Duivendaal 7, Wageningen
    Time: 8.00pm

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