Knowledge Intensive Agriculture: Experiences and Insights from Civil Society
By C. Shambu Prasad and others
Date: 24 April, 2008
Agriculture is very much in the news with several national and international events on how to bring agriculture back into the development agenda. If it was the union budget earlier, now it is the world food crisis. This increased focus on agriculture at the backdrop of a prolonged farming crisis in India and dynamic changes in the agricultural system has led to several prescriptions on how to get the ‘Hindu rate’ of agricultural growth catch up with the exciting growth in an increasingly services led Indian economy. The prescriptions are largely in terms of increased investment (for ICAR) and ways out of ‘technological fatigue’ through calls for ‘second’ and ‘ever green revolutions’. Civil society groups and dissenting researchers have on the other hand been arguing for a paradigm change in agriculture from the tried, tired and costly input-centred green revolution package in favoured (irrigated) areas based primarily on germplasm improvement or genetic modification. Experiences from many agricultural fields indicate a promising and emerging paradigm of Knowledge Intensive Agriculture that surprisingly provides good returns for the farmer even as it improves the ecological base of farming.
The sharing session, a work in progress, is based on discussions that one of the KICS members had during a recent visit to Cali, Colombia for a workshop on ‘Rethinking Impact: Capturing the Complexity of Change’ www.prgaprogram.org/riw . The workshop had a joint presentation on ‘learning alliances’ by a few KICS members where an attempt was made to try and draw some principles for an agriculture of the future based on the phenomenal spread of Non Pesticidal Management in Andhra Pradesh and the complex and messy spread of SRI (System of Rice Intensification) in many parts of India.
The workshop was followed by a new initiative of the Institutional Learning And Change initiative (www.cgiar-ilac.org ) called the Learning Laboratory where a suggestion for ‘Knowledge Intensive Agricultural Systems in India’ was proposed as a learning laboratory case.
Shambu Prasad, leading this presentation, reflecting on the workshop and presenting possibilities for the Learning Laboratory that seeks to include some civil society groups and donors. This will be followed by discussions and brief presentations by Vinod Goud (and if available Biswanath Sinha of SDTT) on WWF’s intervention on SRI.
The sharing session is intended to explore how some of the thoughts around Knowledge Intensive Agriculture could be collectively pursued with a view to drawing possible contours of this newer paradigm based on principles and insights from the field. Some of the ideas of the learning laboratory include hosting a symposium ‘Agricultural Sciences: Beyond NPK’.