In a new initiative, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has turned to non-governmental organisations to reach their technologies to farmers.

The extension wing of the premier research organisation on Wednesday interacted with representatives of 25 select NGOs working with farmers to draw a strategy for location specific technology transfer. As a special incentive, the IARI agreed to give free need-based, area-specific seeds developed by its scientists in all spheres.

Among the NGO representatives were Anil Joshi of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation; Rajinder Singh of Jal Biradari; Vibha Gupta of Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti, Wardha; Lal Singh of the Himalayan Research Group, Shimla; Narendra Mehrotra, former Director of the National Institute of Science Technology and Development; and P. Vasudevan of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari.

“We have set aside 500 to 700 quintals of a variety of seeds for NGOs to use for demonstration modules in their respective areas,” said H.S. Gupta, Director of IARI.

Faced with the prospect of privatisation of extension services, Dr. Gupta emphasised the need for a holistic approach in terms of round-the-year-planning with region-specific technologies combined with local wisdom in soil and water conservation. The need of the hour was “conservation farming” which calls for retention of residue to retain moisture, minimum tillage and diversification.

Vinita Sharma of DST wanted NGOs to adopt a “right mix of agriculture, post-harvest technologies plus involvement of artisans.” She gave the examples of DST developing nutritive fodder and breed improvement in response to a survey with hill women.

In Pithoragarh, where milk shortage was an issue, with DST intervention the Amul collection pattern was adopted. She wanted well-established NGOs to adopt Krishi Vigyan Kendras that needed to be sensitised to area specific needs.

Dr. Vibha Gupta urged the IARI to set up a separate division on indigenous know-how and best practices in farming, seeds, animal husbandry, livestock management, fodder and water conservation. “The division should touch base with all people with indigenous knowledge; keep it lively and as a resource centre for other programmes.”

Pointing out that a lot of farming was still done using bullock carts, Dr. Mehrotra bemoaned that the IARI extension programme made no mention of several successful modules of natural farming (with cow dung) and compost-based farming among other traditional methods.

Dr. Anil Joshi, the moving force behind the interaction, said all people’s struggles on the ground showed that the country’s natural resources were under threat. Farmers, in particular small and marginal farmers, were in distress. “Let there be a single-window service for farmers that would bring about a change in the lives of small and marginal farmers.”

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