Jorhat, April 29: Kenya may have overtaken India’s tea market but a university from the East African country is now looking at Assam to bolster its tea research and studies.
Karatina University of Kenya has approached Assam Agricultural University’s department of tea husbandry and technology to send its students for studies and for collaborative research.
AAU’s department of tea husbandry and technology is the only one in the country that offers full-fledged under-graduate and post-graduate courses in tea as well as doctorate degrees.
The head of the department, Subhash Chandra Barua, said a memorandum of understanding had been signed with the Kenyan university. “We had been approached by Karatina University more than a year ago for setting up a similar department and since then we have had to go through the protocol of taking permission of various ministries and departments at the Centre before the memorandum of understanding could be signed,” he said.
Kenya exported about 393 million kg of tea compared to India’s 220 million kg last year. Asked why a university in Kenya, which is ahead of India in the tea export market, want such a venture, Barua said the small African nation was lagging behind in tea research.
“If Karatina University wants trained personnel to set up and run a full-fledged department like ours, then they will not only have to send students to study here in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses but also for doctorate degrees. Besides, their teachers can come here for collaborative research,” Barua said, adding that unless the faculty were fully trained it would not be possible to be set up a department there.
AAU’s department of tea husbandry and technology was established in 1969. It was the first department to offer courses in tea in the country. Now, other institutes offer diplomas and other certificate courses and training programmes in tea but no where in the country does an institute offer under-graduate, post-graduate and doctoral degrees, Barua said.
“The mandate of the department is to maintain a steady flow of technically qualified and professionally competent personnel to the tea industry and to allied sectors and create an academic base to pursue basic and applied research,” he said.
The university is credited with making tea a farmers’ crop, as it has more than 17,000 small tea growers registered under it. Since its inception, 628 students — 14 from other countries like Iran, Ethiopia, and Uganda — have obtained bachelors degrees from the department.
Recently, the department created a video showing different aspects of tea growing and production for Ignou’s plantation crops course.