(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Building Agriculture Innovation System [DECEMBER-2018]



Building Agriculture Innovation System

In India, we have daunting challenges. They range from sustainable enhancement of our productivity to dealing with challenge of climate change to managing dry land farming to rapid elimination of poverty and malnourishment. They say that if you did in the past, you will get the same results that you always got. And we do not want that. This means we have to do things differently. This means we use resort to innovation. More specifically, India needs to rapidly move towards ‘innovation led agricultural growth’. This has to be achieved with speed, scale and sustainability. We have benefited from our established ‘Indian Agriculture Research System’. However, we need to understand that any National Agricultural Research System (NARS) is activity based. Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS) are output based,. National agricultural innovation systems (NAIS), however, are outcomes based.

This new emphasis means that rather than just supporting research and research organizations, or supporting the generations of outputs, such as agricultural knowledge and information, emphasis has to be now placed on supporting outcomes that led to sustainable development and growth.

This means that we have to do things differently than we have done in the past. For instances, in the classic National Agricultural Research System, the emphasis was on technology transfer. In the new National Agricultural Innovation System, we must move to ‘total innovation’, involving technological and institutional innovation system, we must move to ‘total innovation’, involving technological and institutional innovations throughout the and institutional innovations throughout the production, marketing, policy research and enterprise domains. From transfer of technology we must move to learning by using ‘collective intelligence Farmer’s role no more will be confined to learning adopting and conforming. They must become co-creators of knowledge process and innovation. We must move from ‘funding for research and research infrastructure to strengthening’ the systematic capability for total innovation’, backed up by an enabling policy environment that fosters innovation.

Is it possible to draw any lessons from innovation in industry and manufacturing and agriculture especially from the new paradigms that were emerging? The answer is yes. The issue of going for ‘more’ is obvious. Indian demand for good grains would increase from 192 million tonnes in 2030. The challenge is that this ‘more’ has to be created with ‘less’.

Let us deal with the challenge of dealing with ‘less’. Take the land first. Diversion of arable land for urbanization, industrialization and also for producing biofuels will mean less availability of land for agriculture. Availability of ‘Less land’ is also due to degradation caused by soil erosion, soil salinity and waterlogging problems. Available estimates show that over 120 million hectares of land is degraded.

First and the most powerful way of getting ‘more from less’ is by using the power of new technology, such as information and communication technology, nanotechnology, space technology, modern biotechnology, etc. However, a robust policy level innovation is a must to achieve this.

For instance, GM crops present a great opportunity of getting ‘more from less’ as is evident from the Indian success in BT Cotton. With reference to GM crops, different nations have adopted different strategies. Some use ‘preventive’ policies. No matter what, do not allow GM crops. Other use ‘permissive’ policies. No matter what, within the next so many years, fifty percentage of our crops will be GM crops. But the right policies are those that are ‘promotional but ‘precautionary’. While using the most rigorous scientific validation. We must be promotional too. And we must promote the use of new technology in multitude of ways. Here are some examples.

Again we can achieve ‘more from less’ by using leakage-free public distribution system, which uses computerized allocation of food grains, GPS/SMS monitoring, verifiable digital identify and web portal for public grievances.

Finally, we can have technology enabled crop insurance, where use of real time data from weather stations could be used to predict the rainfall and calculate the insurance payouts which can be automatically transformed to the farmers through mobile banking. These seamless ten sections can achieve ‘more from less’.

The second powerful way of getting ‘more from less’ is to empower more and more farmers, with more and more knowledge. This can happen if the farmer understand the soil that he is sowing his seeds in (soil health card), he understand the why and how of the micro nutrient and pesticide addition that he makes and so on.

The third way of getting ‘more from less’ is by using the power of ‘collective intelligence’. We must have more innovators becoming active players in the Indian agricultural innovation ecosystem going beyond our formal research and innovation ecosystem going beyond our formal research and innovation systems. The author has been privileged to chair the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) inspired by the father of grassroots innovation movements in India, Prof. Anil Gupta . It was formed with the belief that 1.25 billion Indians do not represent 1.25 billion mouths but 1.25 billion minds. NIF recognize such grass roots innovators across India. The NIF (www.nif.org.in) ists over 200,000 such grassroots innovations. Several of these are in the field of agriculture. And we have found that many of these are by ordinary farmers.

Let us see one typical example. Dadaji Khobragade from Nanded was one such as ‘grassroots innovator’. NIF identified him and honored him. The improved paddy variety, HMT, developed by him has now diffused to several states covering more than one lakh acres. It has been included as a standard reference for thinness by protection of plant Variety and Farmers Right Variety (PPVFRA) also

There must be thousands of Khobragade's in the country. Our formal agricultural innovations systems (such as MPKV) must partner with such farmers to get ‘more from less for more people in India’.

Women comprise over fifty percent of the total workforce in tea gardens in India. Plucking of tea gardens in India. Plucking of tea leaves manually involves a lot of drudgery. Can we not develop a tea leaf plucking of tea leaves manually leaves a lot of drudgery . Can we not develop a tea leaf plucking devices? Millions of women have to bend their backs for hours standing with feet in the water to transplant paddy in the fields. Can we not develop a manual paddy transplanter, which will eliminate this drudgery. We, at NIF, decided to challenge the Indian scientists and engineers to solve these problems.

Is it not storage that a country that is capable of doing the most challenging missions tomars in US $74 million, ten times cheaper than other nations, and that too beaming the only nation to do it successfully the first time, , is unable to solve these problems, which will remove the drudgery of our women in agriculture? We must get the best of minds in our research and innovations system involved in these so that the noble aim of ‘more output with less drudgery’ will be achieved with our ‘collective intelligence’.

The Way Forward

In this article, the Indian Agriculture Innovation Agriculture System has been discussed. However, overall, how is India doing on innovation? (after the Tata Nano Car), reverse innovation and even ‘Innovation’! And all these refer to India’s ability to do “more from less for more people’. That means India is creating its own imprint on the global innovation scenario. That means India is doing well. So what is the truth?

We must build a robust Indian Agricultural innovation System based on our great strengths. We must build it on the ‘total innovation’’ concept with ‘collective intelligence’ of this great nation. We must have highly innovative pro-poor, pro-environment and pro-business policies.

We must build our own Indian Agricultural Innovations Index. It is important to do so, because what cannot be measured cannot be monitored, cannot be improved. I have no doubt that if we do this with determination, then we will achieve the dream of moving rapidly from green revolution’. We will then achieve our dreams of food for all’ with a smile on the face of a billion plus Indians and not just some privileged few amongst us.

The decade of 2010-20 was decided as the India Decade as the India Decade of Innovation. We are declared as the Indian Decade of Innovation. We are almost at the end this decade-and where are we? Look at the world ranking of India in innovation Index. India’s ranking among 143 nations has slipped from 62 (2011) to 64(2012) to 66(2013) to 76(2014), 81(2015). However, in the subsequent years, it has steadily improved, 66 (2016), 60(2017 and 57(2018). That means after halfway through the decade, India has slowly started moving up the ladder of the global Index.

The very dictionary of innovation is changing due to the innovations done in India. These new technologies I this dictionary now include phrases like frugal innovation, inclusive innovation, Gandhian innovation, nanovation

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Courtesy: Kurukshetra