The M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), which celebrates its silver jubilee on Wednesday, will look to build on its legacy of research that has been both anticipatory in preparing for future challenges and participatory in engaging with local and marginal communities.
President Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to launch the silver jubilee of the institution which was founded in 1988 as a not-for-profit trust and grown in stature as a premier centre of excellence with over 400 scientists, four regional centres and 29 field sites. Addressing a press conference, MSSRF chairman M. S. Swaminathan said the research initiatives reflected the core mandate of being pro-poor, pro-nature and pro-women, while being scientifically creative and socially meaningful.
“From the outset, we wanted to ensure that MSSRF was not just another institution; rather its work should be scientifically creative and socially meaningful,” Dr. Swaminathan said.
Apart from successful experiments on crop varieties that have vastly improved yields and farmer incomes, the MSSRF counts among its achievements as being instrumental in setting the stage for a coastal zone management policy, restoring the Pichavaram mangrove systems and leveraging technology for helping fishermen raise their catch.
The institution has also contributed to getting Kuttanad in Kerala recognised as a globally important agricultural heritage system by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations. Kuttanad, along with Koraput in Orissa, is among the only 26 such sites in the world recognised by the UN.
On Wednesday, the President will hand over the declaration to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
The MSSRF’s international engagements include the implementation of a rice biopark project to exploit rice biomass in Myanmar and a genetic garden to salvage endemic germplasm in war-torn Afghanistan and training its scientists.
In its silver jubilee year, the MSSRF will adopt as a flagship initiative research on farming systems for nutrition to bridge the growing disconnect between agriculture and nutrition, said Ajay Parida, MSSRF executive director.
Historically, anaemia and low-birth-weight have been regarded as medical problems needing a drug-based approach, whereas they are nutrition-linked and require a food-based intervention, said Dr. Swaminathan.
While hailing the UPA’s Food Security Bill as an important measure to eradicate malnutrition, Dr. Swaminathan said it would, however, only address one kind of hunger — that caused by inadequate consumption of calories.
While protein hunger can be tackled through provision of pulses, milk or eggs, micronutrient deficiency — the most dangerous form —could be tackled only by linking agriculture and nutrition.
Food security, in a holistic sense, would involve integrating PDS with drinking water and sanitation programmes. Backing Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s concerns on the Bill as genuine, Dr. Swaminathan suggested amendments to the Bill’s Rules that would ensure that existing rice allocation to States would remain unaffected.