Enrollment for a free "Agriculture, Economics and Nature" online course offered by the University of Western Australia (UWA) in partnership with Yara International is booming as farmers are eager to learn more about how to tackle the challenge of increasing productivity in a sustainable way.
Agriculture is the world’s largest industry, employing more than one billion people worldwide. Demand for farm products is rising rapidly amid a growing world population. By 2050, a global population of 9 billion people will require almost twice as much agricultural output as today. This presents a great challenge: The need to improve cropland productivity in a time of climate change and resource scarcity.
The Yara-sponsored Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) helps farmers addresses this great challenge by focusing on the economics of agriculture, natural resources and the environment. The course, which will begin on Feb. 2, has attracted some 2,000 participants worldwide from Australia, Vietnam, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia, to the United States, India, China, Russia, Iran and all over Europe.
“The international interest in this pioneering online course confirms that the need to produce more food while mitigating environmental impacts is a worldwide challenge ” said Mark Loquan, chief executive officer at Yara Pilbara, Australia. “Together Yara and UWA developed a course that is extremely timely given the global focus on climate change, food security and access to water,” he added.
Sharing knowledge through agricultural education
Presented by Professor David Pannell, one of Australia's leading agricultural economists, the six-week course aims to increase understanding of the changes that have occurred in agriculture and support improved decision making on issues like production methods, agricultural input levels and resource conservation. Watch David Pannell give an introduction to the course (YouTube video).
“The key economic principles that we will learn about can help those of us engaged in agriculture to make better decisions about how agriculture should be managed, about how we can get best value from resources used in agriculture, and about the design of the government policy. They can also help us think about how to strike a good balance between the agricultural production and its environmental impact,” said Professor Pannell.
One of the biggest sources of participants to date has been Vietnam, with more than 240 people committing to the course. Vietnam is the world’s second-biggest coffee exporter.
“As the largest producer of complex fertilizers, Yara has driven innovation within agricultural productivity, developing products and solutions, including low-carbon fertilizer and technology tools, that help farmers increase productivity while reducing environmental footprints," Yara’s Mark Loquan said. “At Yara, we believe that sharing knowledge through agricultural education will drive the industry forward and will help it become more sustainable. We are delighted to see that so many farmers share our vision,” he added.
The free online course, which will have a different focus every week, comprises a set of weekly lecture videos (5 and 10 minutes ), reading material, activities, student forums, quizzes and a final exam. No prerequisites or prior knowledge is needed. Certificates will be provided to those who successfully complete the course.
The course starts 2 February, 2015.
Impact through education