Training with a great mission: Rural development

by Md. Shafiqul Islam

BANGLADESH Academy for Rural Development (BARD), Comilla, (the then PARD) was established on 27 May, 1959. The then Government of Pakistan felt the necessity of establishing two institutes (one in the then East Pakistan and another in the then West Pakistan) for training the senior staff of the Village Agriculture and Industrial Development (V-AID) Programme.

The Ford Foundation offered to assist the government in setting up these institutes and a team of experts was invited from the Michigan State University to advise on this constitution. After two years deliberations the scheme was approved and a group of instructors (including Akhtar Hameed Khan as Chief Executive - later on he was awarded Honorary Ph. D. degree ) recruited in 1958 and sent to Michigan State University for training. They returned after one year and the Academy for Rural Development at Comilla was started on 27 May, 1959 and Akhtar Hameed Khan was the Chief Executive of the Academy.

BARD is popularly known as Comilla Academy or Academy. It is an autonomous institution governed by a Board of Governors of which the Minister for Local Government Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD & C) is the Chairperson. Administratively it is attached to the Ministry of LGRD & C. The Board of Governors formulates policies and the Director General of BARD (usually Joint Secretary or Additional Secretary or any other govt nominated person deputed/appointed as Director General) as the Chief Executive implements the policies and conducts day-to-day affairs with the help of one Additional Director General, nine Directors, fourteen Joint Directors, thirteen Deputy Directors, 22 Assistant Directors, 300 supporting staffs within the framework of the Ordinance and Service Rules of the Academy.The Academy is located at Kotbari, on the high central tract dominated by Mainamati-Lalmai hill range in Comilla district at a distance of about 100 kilometers from the capital city of Dhaka. The sprawling campus covers an area of 63 hectares (156 acres) of land including undulating hilly terrain and valleys. A large part of the campus is under orchards, vegetable farms, parks and network of roads lined with shady tropical trees. The office and residential buildings have been designed and located in harmony with the topography and surrounding landscape. The well-planned layout of the structures and green landscape gives the campus a serene and idyllic beauty. It has nine lecture/conference halls with air-condition facilities, a big air-conditoned auditorium, a development communication unit with modern equipment, one computer unit, a modern library with latest collection of books, journals and periodicals, five hostels with 150 independent rooms, two cafeterias, one health centre, one sports and recreation centre etc. In the early year of its establishment the Academy conducted mainly job training courses for Development Officers of V-AID and orientation courses for Circle Officers. But soon as large numbers of groups began to come to the Academy, the following types of courses were being conducted: (i) Job training courses for projects started on the Comilla pattern in 11 thanas; (ii) Orientation to rural development for CSP, EPCS and other probationers; (iii) A general rural development course of fours week; (iv) Specialised short course for officers of BD and LG, Agriculture and other departments and (v) Special courses for foreign participants sent by UN, AID, RCD etc. Besides these training courses, a number of conferences were also held frequently and many visitors had to be taken around for observation programmes. At that time BARD had also paid special attention to the teaching and training of villagers. In course of time the Academy has combined training with research and experimentation/ action research. The unified approach of training, research and experimentation to solve rural development related problems has given special significance to the training curriculum of the Academy. A series of pilot experimentation, conducted by the Academy during early sixties led to the development of several viable rural development models which were replicated all over the country.This became the foundation of the Academy's national international reputations. The examples of these may be cited as the Thana Training and Development Centre (TTDC), Rural Works Programme (RWP), Thana Irrigation Programme (TIP) and two-tier cooperatives. At Present two pilot experimentations namely Small Farmers and Landless Labourer Development Programme (SFDP) and Comprehensive Village Development Programme (CVDP) are being implemented by BARD which hopefully would be turned into nation- wide replicable models for rural development. The Academy continues to follow this approach of training meticulously with a view to making its training practical, field-oriented and meaningful. Through its training programme the Academy has made significant contributions to the development of human resources for local-level planning and management of rural development programmes throughout the country and in a limited way even outside the country.

The Academy's training programmes come from the government and non-government private voluntary development organisations, representatives of the local government and cooperative institutions, students and researchers of universities and other institutions of learning. With the assistance of UNDP, FAO, WFP, ILO, CIRDAP, SAARC and COMSEC, Academy also conducts seminars, workshops and training programmes on various aspects of rural development for the participants from the countries in the Asia-Pacific and Africa region.Besides, during the time-frame of 1986-88 and onward in response to the request of Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (BPATC) the Academy came forward to clear up the backlog by organising the special foundation training for the cadres of Bangladesh Civil Service (Health) and Engineers of Local Government Engineering Department (LGRD). As of 1999 the Academy conducted 44 such courses. In the recent year (1999-2000) BARD made an agreement with Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BRAC) for imparting 4-month duration training course (including motor driving and computer operation) to the scientists of agricultural research institutes under umbrella of National Agricultural Research System (NARS). Under this agreement, three courses have already been conducted. On the basis of excellent performance of organising these three foundation training courses, BARC already requested BARD for organising another three courses. Under another agreement with BARC, BARD conducted two training courses of two-week duration titled "Administrative and Official Management" for the senior level officials (Chief Scientific Officer and Principal Scientific Officer) of different agricultural research institutes under NARS.In consonance with the changed world social, political-administrative scenario the training focus of the Academy began to undergo gradual changes. These changes in focus are the result of cumulative influence of a number of endogenous i.e. internal prioritisation, experience levels of the faculty, institutional goals and exogenous factors which can be categorised as national priority, administrative and political considerations and clientele demand. The writer is a Deputy Director, BARD, Comilla.

Source: The Independent, 23 June 2000