Education: An Essential Tool for 21st Century Agriculture

Education is an essential public good. Without quality, inclusive and equitable training, the vicious circle of poverty that leaves millions of children, young people and adults behind cannot be broken.

This reality is even more important given the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Countries need to rebuild their economies and overcome the severe impact of the pandemic. Education is key to this process.

Agriculture, rural areas and their integration with urban centers play an important role in this agenda. Realizing the potential of rural areas requires innovation and technology that create a virtuous cycle of economic growth, job creation and closing social inequalities.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, agriculture is the main activity and one of the few sectors that remained active after the COVID-19 outbreak. In the coming years, the sector will take another qualitative leap, embracing the benefits of digitization and other technological advancements.

This change is inevitable and requires the development of new capacities, as the digitalization of agriculture will help improve the supply and quality of food while maintaining a harmonious relationship with the environment.

Parallel to these processes, rural residents and the next generation should be provided with adequate education. This will enable transformation processes in the agricultural industry to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Rather than technology itself driving these changes, human talent and appropriately empowered organizations will. Therefore, once rural activities implement the digitalization agenda, steps need to be taken to enable rural people to play a leading role through education.

In recent years, in a joint effort, international organizations such as the Inter-American Institute for Agricultural Cooperation (IICA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have worked with private sector allies such as Microsoft to address the issues of rural connectivity and digital skills development. A warning about the urgency to deal with.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there is a 34% difference in connectivity access between urban and rural areas. The development of digital skills among rural residents is also limited, with only 17.1% of him in the population possessing specific digital skills.

Additionally, only 33% of schools in Latin America have access to adequate broadband or internet speed. In rural areas, less than 15% of schools in eight out of ten countries have adequate broadband access or internet speed.

Education has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with school closures and abandonment of schooling. According to UNESCO, her 3.1 million young people and children in the region are dropping out of the education system. This scenario presents the challenges facing the local education agenda.

Comprehensive development of rural areas and their people, therefore, is a priority to align actions with future demands and promote the development of agricultural technical education.

We must prepare leaders to transform our agri-food system. Therefore, providing better opportunities through first-class education in agricultural technical schools should be a priority.

This is the way to lay the foundations of a new rural village. A population with better education, full connectivity, and the ability to use new technologies intensively and intelligently, thereby transforming rural areas into zones of economic development opportunity and engines.

• Manuel Otero is Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute for Agricultural Cooperation. Education: An Essential Tool for 21st Century Agriculture

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