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NongHyup International Student ProgrammeIn South Korea, most universities hold graduation ceremonies in February. On 19 February, the Agricultural Cooperative College of NongHyup, located on the outskirts of Seoul, held the graduation for the class of 2020. Although this year’s ceremony was greatly scaled down due to Covid-19 restrictions, the graduates looked just as excited and ready to take on the world as their alumni. During their three years at college, the 115 graduates were able to study a wide range of subjects including cooperativism, cooperative management, and economics, as well as gain plenty of hands-on experience on farms and at cooperatives.
One graduate who caught our attention was, of course, Hari Nepal Prasad. Hari, from Nepal, was selected in 2016 as a beneficiary of our international scholarship program upon the recommendation of the Nepal Agricultural Co-operative Central Federation (NACCFL). Determined to make the most of his time in Korea, Hari worked very hard over the course of a Korean language program and later his degree in cooperative industry. Thanks to his excellent Korean skills, he quickly became close friends with peer students and attained high grades especially in management strategies and case study exercises. Towards the end of his degree, after taking classes in drone flying and working on smart strawberry farms, he developed a keen interest in sustainable agriculture supported by technology.
Since 2014, as part of our initiative to promote cooperation between cooperatives, NongHyup (NACF) has sponsored promising students—recommended by ICA member organizations from developing countries—to study agriculture and cooperatives in Korea. Before Hari, we had supported two students from Uganda and Vietnam, respectively, who are now back in their home countries and employed in the cooperative sector. Hari will follow suit and work for an agricoop, most likely NACCFL, once he returns to Nepal. Apart from Hari, we are sponsoring two other students, Monique and Shuan, also from Uganda and Vietnam. Monique is halfway through her course at the Agricultural Cooperative College while Shuan has just recently begun her second semester of the Master’s program in international cooperation at Korea University.
Just as the rapid economic growth of Korea is said to warrant detailed study, the success story of NongHyup offers many useful lessons for coops in the developing world to learn and apply. To accommodate such interests, we run exchange programs like ODA pilot projects and staff training, and share our experience and operating models. We sincerely hope we can help other coops emerge as important players in the rural economy.