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28/10/2014 - India - Inauguration of College of Agriculture in “Mary’s Garden”

(ANS – Sagayathottam) – As a tribute to the bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco (1815-2015), Don Bosco College of Agriculture, the first Catholic College of Agriculture in India, was inaugurated by the Salesian Provincial Fr. Jayapalan Raphael, SDB, at Sagayathottam, near Chennai, on 24 October. The opening took place in the presence of Bishop P. Soundararaju, SDB, of Vellore and a large gathering of priests, religious, well-wishers and students.

The 250-acre lush green campus where the new College of Agriculture stands is known as “Sagayathottam”, meaning “Mary’s Garden”. It was an arid and unpromising land when the Salesians of Don Bosco acquired it nearly seven decades ago. Under the leadership of enterprising missionaries like Fr. Angelo Codello (Italian) and Bro. Ludvik Zabret (Slovenian), ably assisted by Indians, the lands were levelled, wells were sunk and arid fields prepared for cultivation. In 1959 a School of Agriculture was opened here to train poor rural youths in the basics of agriculture. The impact of this was felt in the entire district of North Arcot (today’s Vellore and Thiruvannamalai districts)

Through innovative methods of water conservation and soil management and a lot of hard work, the barren lands began to bloom. Slowly Sagayathottam became a model farm and in 1988 the agricultural school was upgraded to the Sagayathottam Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development (SIARD), offering students two-year government recognized diplomas in Agriculture.

The present College, affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), currently rated as the best Agricultural University in the country by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), will offer undergraduate courses (B.Sc.) in Agriculture and related fields. It is also intended to be a centre of research and development in agriculture. The college received its first batch of sixty students on 8 September. A happy coincidence is that the Dean of the College, who is directly appointed by the government, Dr. Christopher Lourduraj, is a Don Bosco alumnus, who is familiar with our system of education. That is indeed a valuable asset to a fledgling institution!

Delivering his inaugural address, Fr. Jayapalan described the college as a historic milestone in the annals of the Salesian Province of Chennai, which has always had as one of its main thrusts the empowering of rural youth, particularly the poor ones, through technical education.

The inaugural function began with a solemn Eucharistic celebration presided over by Mgr. Soundararaju, during which special prayers were offered for this institution and for all the young people who enter its portals.

Published on 28/10/2014

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