Editorial: Education and Training are Avenues to Modern Agriculture

People everywhere thirst for learning and knowledge. To learn and know more is a lifelong quest. Yet so many people neither read nor write, more than 1.7 billion. Reading and writing are invaluable learning tools, and their role in information exchange is formidable. Of all the tools used in world agriculture, reading and writing are foreign to many farmers, with 80-90% of farmers illiterate in some regions. Is the ability to read and write any less important to farmers' success than are plows, wrenches, or fencing? Let's just say that there's a right tool for every job. But literacy is unique among tools because its value improves with use rather than depreciates. That quality is a hallmark of sustainability and regeneration.

Farmers with access to the best management tools and skills are those who will survive and thrive in tomorrow's agricultural world. To be truly modern and sustainable, our world agricultural system needs educated farmers who can read and write. Likewise, modern world agriculture must reserve and use its resources to educate the non-farming agriculturalists who serve farmers.

This edition of Ag-Sieve synthesizes a range of education and training opportunities available to the world agricultural community. Many of the listed courses, workshops, and programs are oriented to agricultural professionals who know farming but do not farm for a living. These education and training opportunities were selected for publication because they address issues of sustainability and regeneration in the world agricultural system. One point to complement the information presented in this Ag-Sieve is worthy of note. We know that women farmers contribute at least 50% of the energy required for food production in many agricultural economies. But numeric gender equity is poorly reflected in the ranks of non-farming professional agriculturalists who tend to be men. This reality ought to change.

To reach all farmers more effectively, world agriculture needs educated women in leadership positions. While "women in development" has been a topic de rigueur in print and at numerous conferences for nearly 25 years, women farmers and professional agriculturalists are not well represented in education and training programs. Education and training are quiet avenues to leadership that women and men can walk together. We must affirm that belief with effort and resources to train and educate both women and men. Meanwhile, remember the farmers to be served by an educated cadre of agriculturalists. Many farmers have little chance to participate in well-financed training and education because they neither read nor write. Many professional agriculturalists understand and accommodate this reality in their work, but more attention to that issue is needed. Above all, as tomorrow's agricultural leaders emerge from training and education, let them work to open similar avenues of opportunity for all farmers.