Buenos Aires, 30 June 2022 (IICA) – Five thousand students from 100 agrotechnical schools across Argentina will be trained in the use of digital technologies applied to agriculture. These schools are seen as strategic pieces in developing agriculture in the country’s rural areas and in fostering a sense of belonging to the countryside.
In the context of a true agricultural revolution at the hand of new technologies, the program is promoted by the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Cabinet of Ministers of Argentina, along with the Ministries of Education and Agriculture.
The project was developed by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in partnership with Microsoft and with the support of the World Bank.
The National Agroedutec Program was presented this Tuesday at a ceremony taking place at the Kirchner Cultural Center (CCK) in the City of Buenos Aires.
Julián Domínguez, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina; Jorge Neme, Deputy Chair of the Cabinet of Ministers; Gerardo Marchesini, Director of the National Institute of Technology Education (INET); Irene Wasilewsky, Agricultural Economist at the World Bank; Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA—who is on a week-long work trip to the Argentine capital; Luciano Braverman, Director General of Education for Latin America at Microsoft; Fernando López Iervasi, General Manager for Argentina at Microsoft; and Luciano Viglione, Director of Public Affairs and Sustainability at Bayer Cono Sur, all participated in the event.
The initiative seeks to develop digital skills in young people in order to carry out projects tied to the different productive environments of each area of the country. During the first phase, the program will benefit high school juniors and seniors in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Tucumán.
The focus will be on creativity, team work and innovation.
The initiative will also include the teachers, who will receive refresher training on innovative knowledge and practices. Officials and ministerial teams will also be part of the project, who will be made aware of the centrality of new technologies in agrotechnical education and their use in current production processes.
During later phases, the program will be expanded to additional education centers in other Argentine provinces and, ultimately, to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
A pact for the future
“We must ensure that agrotechnical schools provide the knowledge to meet the demands of the productive sector. This project is a pact for the future we imagine”, stated Minister Julián Domínguez, who emphasized the need to ensure Internet connectivity in rural areas to foster a sense of belonging in young people.
A joint study conducted by IICA, Microsoft and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Latin America and the Caribbean found that there are 77 million rural inhabitants without access to quality connectivity, representing almost half of the region’s rural population.
Domínguez also underscored the benefit for the country that Manuel Otero, an Argentine national, is currently fulfilling his second term as Director General of IICA. “Having him is a source of pride for Argentina and is a testament to our productive capacity”, he stressed.
“Argentina’s agricultural sector has a phenomenal productivity and competitive capacity. It includes not only agricultural commodities, but also pears, apples, wines, tobacco, citrus and many other products that compete globally. It is said that we export primary products, but in reality, they are the end product of a highly complex production chain that includes biotechnology, digital applications, direct seeding, fertilizations and many other aspects in which many Argentines work”, expressed Jorge Neme.
The official underpinned the value of the digital agriculture training program for agrotechnical education and believes it will ensure equal opportunities for youth living in rural areas.
“The purpose of this program is essential for the Argentina of tomorrow in a highly complex context, but in which the country has enormous opportunity”, said Neme.
Otero explained that the program is part of the actions promoted by IICA across the Hemisphere with the aim to put aside the view that rural territories are areas that generate poverty and expel human resources, replacing it with a new approach in which they are appreciated as areas with a high potential for progress based on the use of new technologies and increased connectivity.
“Agriculture is undergoing an inexorable incorporation process of new technologies and digitalization, opening new opportunities in rural areas that we could never have imagined. Agriculture is experiencing an unprecedented change”, said Otero.
“Educating the rural youth and especially women contributes to reversing inequalities and to putting the historically disadvantaged rural areas at the forefront of the technological revolution”, concluded Otero. “Agriculture is spearheading a strong transformation. Developing holistic plans and strengthening education in agrotechnical schools is, without a doubt, an essential contribution to driving these change processes”.
Promoting generational change-over
In Argentina there are 525 agrotechnical high schools. Enrollment in these schools represents less than 20% of high schoolers, meaning the modality has limited scope in a country whose economy is heavily affected by agricultural development.
In an effort to reverse the problem of generational change-over in rural areas caused by the exodus of young people to the cities, digital skills building in agrotechnical schools is key as it is these schools that form the new profiles for productive activity and country life.
Specialist Wasilewsky explained that the National Agroedutec Program is aligned with the projects implemented by the World Bank in Argentina and the efforts to bolster the country’s agricultural sector.
“The technological component is fundamental to achieving inclusive, sustainable development for rural areas. Education is the cornerstone. This isn’t about preparing young people for the jobs of tomorrow, but rather for the jobs of today”, she said.
For his part, Marchesini, who explained that the agrotechnical education system serves about 120,000 students across Argentina, said that educating young people in agriculture faces a dual challenge: “In addition to training human resources, we must create the conditions that promote a sense of belonging so that young people can develop their full potential”.
The program’s technical details were presented by Luciano Braverman and Sandra Ziegler, Education Specialist at IICA.
“The proposal is geared toward building a platform in the learning process so that students can fully utilize modern technologies, a fundamental skill today. The facilitators play a key role because it is accompaniment that will guarantee the success of these processes. Our goal is to strengthen the human talent in Argentina and to create opportunities for youth”, said Braverman.
The program will comprise two modules: the first is concerned with the technology skills of the 21st century, and the second with 21st century technology applied to agriculture.
The modules include an international certification from Microsoft and a certificate of completion from IICA, Microsoft and the other program sponsors. The program will last one semester and the final activity will be to present a community open exchange workshop on program takeaways.
In developing the program, a process of consultation was held with different stakeholders and institutions, including Silvina Gvirtz, Secretary of Education of Argentina; Juan Manuel Fernández Arocena, INTA Advisor; Walter Grahovac, Minister of Education for the province of Córdoba; Juan Pablo Lijtmacher, Minister of Education for the province of Tucumán; Marcelo Pérez Alfaro, Leading Specialist in Education at the Inter-American Development Bank; Hugo Sigman, IICA Goodwill Ambassador; and Gustavo Grobocopatel, Founder of Grupo Los Grobo.
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