Project ‘Farmers First' aims to move beyond production and productivity

The thought that farmers could turn innovators to solve their problems somehow did not seem to appeal to the common man or government. In reality a farmer's job extends beyond more than just growing and selling.

“In fact in today's scenario agricultural innovation by farmers is the key to addressing growing challenges as there is a growing perception that the emerging demand of the farmers for technological and institutional support is not adequately addressed,” says Dr. S. Ayyapan, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi and Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research (DARE).

First time

ICAR for the first time since its inception under the stewardship of Dr. Ayyapan, instituted a separate committee named National Agriculture Innovation Project (NAIP) to validate, document and help farm innovations. The Initiatives of NAIP extended the efforts towards improving rural livelihood of farmers living in less favoured, marginal or more complex environments.

New project

Another newly proposed project — ‘Farmer First' aims to move beyond production and productivity and to recognise the complex, diverse and risk prone realities of majority of the farmers and enhance farmers-scientists contact with multi stake holders participation.

“Farmer First aims at enriching farmers-scientists interface for technology development and application. It will be achieved with focus on innovations; feedback; multiple stakeholders participation, multi method approaches, vulnerability, and livelihood interventions,” explains Dr. Ayyappan.

“Highly qualified scientists, even if they are committed, are often unaware of the actual needs and problems of poor and marginalised farmers.

“A huge gap exists in the quality of research output required at the farm level and that being developed in the labs,” he says.

In contrast to other areas like medicine, agricultural researchers mostly work in isolation from each other and most of their research findings are academic rather than practical.

Pro- active role

According to him research system should play a pro-active role in reaching out to farmers for getting first hand information, farmers' perceptions, feed back on generated technologies, and develop new and more appropriate processes, methodologies and technologies for diverse farm environment.

Indian agriculture embraces diverse actors in its endeavour to feed 1.21 billion people.

Small and marginal farmers may be uneducated, but one cannot question the fact that they do possess a deep knowledge about farming and understanding of the complexity of nature and its impact on cultivation, resulting from years of practising agriculture.

Vital for food security

“Small farmers are extremely vital for food security as land holdings are shrinking day by day. The contribution of women farmers is also particularly immense. The innovations in agriculture from scientists to farmer innovators and vice versa need to be validated, integrated and scaled up,” he says.

A highly placed source at the Ministry of Agriculture, New Delhi, not wanting to be identified, expressed a positive opinion on the NAIP and Farmers first project.

More practical

According to the source this is the first time that ICAR has recognised the innovative side of the farmers and feels that both these projects are more practical and could play a definite role in addressing the critical issues in farming.

At present ICAR institutes are working with about 1,000 farm-families involving between two and four villages, engaging each scientist in farm and farmer-oriented activities. The project team undertakes numerous visits as and when required to the villages.

Those interested in knowing more can email Dr. Ayyappan at s_ayyappans@yahoo.com

Keywords: farm innovation