International workshop on environment and poverty


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Anil Gupta

GFEP Presented at the




Coping Creatively :

Survival through Innovations and Experimentation in High Risk environment1


The elite and intelligentsia in most developing countries have lost the confidence of turning around their societies through reliance on indigenous genius whether at grassroots level or at higher level in different institutions. Erosion of this confidence stems largely from the alienation that elite has from the creativity, experimentation and conceptualization going on at the level of farmers, artisans, pastoralists, fishermen and women, etc. This alienation manifests in the scientific studies, research programmes, curriculum and of course, in the developmental paradigms and strategies. We never seem to begin with what people already know and excel in.

Over last five years, I have been involved in systematically documenting and networking the indige­nous innovators within the country but also outside. The idea is that in the global search for sus­tainable technologies and institutions, societies like ours can acquire leadership because of the variety of approaches and empirical techniques still in use. In the process of modernization much of the experimental ethic and urge to innovate at local level was stifled primarily through top down delivery systems. The regions where market forces are weakest and delivery systems almost non­existent or very weak, people have to be very inventive just in order to survive. Even in other regions, the spirit of experimentation has not died down among all sections of society. A quick perusal of many of the books in the agricultural discipline in Hindi and English reveal an interesting pattern. Most books written prior to 1940s or early fifties, included the best of the modern science available till then but also included the best of the local traditions. After independence this trend first declined and then vanished. As a student in late sixties, I never learned anything inspiring about local knowledge system. It took me over twenty years to discover what was lying around all this while (and in fact much of it also is irretrievably destroyed). Many of the elite planners and scien­tists have still not discovered this potential.

It is this spirit of experimentation, innovation and entrepreneurship which will help, in my view turning around our society and taking it out of the morass of mediocrity.


Declining productivity of most of the modern agricultural inputs, increasing costs of production, high negative environmental externalities (pollution, toxic residues, degradation of land, etc.) and worsening income distribution has led to the questioning of basic developmental paradigm. The relation­ship between nature and local and global society are coming under strain precisely because the crisis does not affect everybody equally.

The search for sustainable technologies and institutions has rekindled the interest in indigenous technologies all over the world.
The linkage between formal and informal knowledge system, we suggest, must be forged in a manner that the gains from value addition flow in due proportion to the innovators and originators of the ideas. The intellectual property rights of the people, we assert, have to be protected not just for the benefit of local people, but for the larger humanity so that the thinking and experimental approach of the people does not die out.

Tradition of research

There are several documents available listing innovative practices of the time along with some intri­guing and apparently absurd prescriptions. Whether we need to evaluate these practices and pre­scriptions according to the formal methods of western science is a debatable subject. However, we still feel that the connection between formal experimental methods and traditional experiential wisdom has to be established. It may require modification in our own ways of thinking science and its methods.

Two hundred years ago, a British traveller Thos Halcott (1795 in Dharampal, 1971) was so impressed with the design of drill plough used in Gujarat that he made a drawing and sent it to Board of Agriculture, London. He recommended that the ploughs used in England at that time could have been improved by learning from Indian example. Two hundred years later, most of the elite re­searchers and planners of India have started looking to the west for technological solutions for local problems. Why has the spirit of enquiry and excellence dried out? What are the ways to revive the spirit and strengthen the ability to build upon indigenous knowledge traditions and systems? Answer to these questions are not easy. Needham felt that history of feudalism was responsible for this. Referring to Chinese context, he felt that the contemporary institutions had internalized the values of hierarchy and order which were earlier manifested in outer society. The creative spirit was cramped.

In first century B.C and sixth century A.D., Shih Shang-han put together an encyclopedia of agriculture in China, listing a large number of practices advisable for sustainable resources in different parts of China. Vriksha Ayurveda (tree medicine), Asva-vaidyka (horse treatments but also dealing with other animals) and several other Indian ancient texts on indigenous science were put together in a publication on Agriculture in Ancient India (Roy Choudhary, ICAR, New Delhi, 1964). G.P.Mazumdar compiled the indigenous botanical knowledge as well as agricultural practices to highlight the scientific basis of seed treatment, pest control, horticulture, etc., (1935). Diwan in a book on Agriculture in Bombay Presidency (1905) described not only the modern practices of that time, but also the indigenous innovations, particularly in veterinary medicine.

Similarly, Raghunath Mal Rai synthesized his experience from 1905 to 1940 in an arid region of western India and made recommendations about soil conservation, watershed management, and preservation of local crafts (1943). Durga Prasad Singh (1915, 1925) in separate studies described the science of compost making and provided clues for linking different kinds of compost with different types of soil, crops and climatic conditions. In another book on potato, he described the modern methods of potato seed preservation practiced in Germany, but also provided local innova­tive practices for the purpose. In general, one can suggest that most of the agricultural books in India till late 40s, i.e before independence and early fifties invariably included the best of modern as well as traditional wisdom of the time. However, in the post independence period, the traditional wisdom started disappearing. By 60s, it had become almost irrelevant for the modern scientific institutions.
But, the curiosity regarding learning from indigenous knowledge had not totally died down. In 1967, two post graduate theses were completed at the Punjab Agricultural University, Hisar to understand indigenous, animal husbandry and veterinary medicine under the guidance of Dr.Y.P.Singh. Varma and Khanna began a research trail which remained somehow untraversed till 1979 when another thesis on dryland technology was completed at the same campus (triggered by the same professor, Hiranand, 1979). In a provocative paper, entitled, "A plea for Studies in Tradi­tional Animal Husbandry", Varma and Singh (1969) asked a question as to whether there was anything to be learnt from indigenous wisdom. Through various examples they demonstrated a strong need for careful studies of indigenous knowledge systems. Unfortunately, the examiner of these theses did not get easily persuaded to pass the students. To him, the purpose of extension science, was to take the knowledge from University to the farmers. In these theses, an attempt was made to do the opposite. However, the students did pass the exams, but as mentioned above, it had enough deterrent effect on other students.

In a review of post graduate research in five disciplines during 1973-1983, Gupta, Patel and Shah (1989) showed not only near total absence of studies on indigenous knowledge, but also progres­sive delinking of different disciplines. Excellent work of Paul Richards, Brokenshaw, Robert Cham­bers, Mike Warren, Celestius Juma, Stuart Hill, Rengifo, Niamir, Charles Walters etc., abroad and K M Munshi, Raghunath Mai Rai, Majumdar, Y P Singh, R H Richaria, Dharampal, Ashis Nandy, Winin Periera etc., in India has shown that search for indigenous wisdom was pursued in different parts of the world almost as intensely. It is a different matter that research by the professionals of the developing countries has not received the appropriate place in the history of ideas. This might appear a trivial issue to many. However, the institutional dimension of building upon historical strands of local knowledge system is more important than the utilitarian aspect. A sustainable search for alternative way of doing agriculture and related practices or managing health of human or animals is unlikely to take off by implanting or imposing a historical and some times non-accountable ways of learning and living. Many attempts to impose methods like Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) or its variants are a case in point.

Dharampal (1982) traced the reasons for decline of Indian science and technology in its colonial history and lack of search for indigenous solutions. Even though most countries have been liberated politically, the minds of the elite has remained colonized (Nandy 1989). Historical route to learning also helps in identifying local points of reference in every society. It would be totally absurd to suggest that a society has within it the potential for indigenous innovations but no capacity to conceptualize or abstract the process and product dimensions. Such an attitude would also not help in building a viable, collegial, accountable, global community of innovators and scholars inter­ested in the subject.

Shri K.M. Munshi, Minister of Food and Agriculture during 1950s exhorted the Indian scien­tists in a special general body meeting of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (November 1, 1950, New Delhi) to take a comprehensive view of the interrelationships between land, water and livestock resources. The ultimate objective he felt was the land transformation. He organized Vana Mahotsav that is a forest festival as a national event so that every year on this occasion people would plant trees. He launched the concept of Bhoomi sena (Land Army) in 1951 with the objec­tive of 'Land Transformation' i.e. to secure the utilization of land on a rational basis so that the available resources of land, water and livestock are developed to the maximum extent. In a seminar on Extension at IARI (September 27, 1951) he observed,

At the Ministry of Agriculture I found many isolated and unrelated and, therefore, insuffi­cient activities. I wanted a comprehensive outlook, a philosophy, an urge, a faith. The conception that we must replant our philosophy of life in the soil came to me again and again. How can this be done?

The first thing I realized was the intimate relationship of man, his well-being and progress with the soil, sunshine, river system, forests and the natural surroundings of his native land. They are one whole; their richness and strength are one. If this equilibrium is disturbed, man dies.
Man and his environment must act and react on each other perpetually to escape the fate of races that lived in conditions in which equilibrium had been disturbed and they knew not how to restore it. Land Transformation is, therefore, the art of maintaining the equilibrium between man and his environment". (1951 : 119).

It is not possible to dispute the relationship between hydrological cycle, the nutrition cycle and the village institutions that he spelt out to visualize linkages between crop, livestock, tree etc. In 1952, while speaking about the Gospel of Dirty Hand he said,

For the soil, hand of the worker on the land is the magic touch which starts the unbroken change of action and reaction from the soil to the spirit, transforming the organism of life.... Informative publicity has no power to move the collective mind to action. Such power comes from an idea Tabloided in an expressive and significant phrase which moves men to action. We know the power in the word Sathyagraga and ‘Quit India' wielded in our recent history; they opened the flood gates of the mass response…..I coined the phrase land transformation - Bhu Parivarthan or Boomi Parivarthan - just to emphasize the anchorage of our movement in the soil.

By using the word ‘Extension', you are shutting the door of mass consciousness to the work before you. The word ‘Extension’ has no appeal to our sub conscious mind. It is an American word, the full significance of which is known obscurely only to a few; even 'extension' in education is familiar only to our academic world. It has no meaning for the vast number of our educated man; to them ‘Extension is just Enlargement'. To the farmer it is strange and unfamiliar, a new-fangled, incomprehensible idea. And it is likely to encourage our middle class workers and officials to by-pass the unwelcomed gospel of the dirty hand. Let us use words which evoke a response in our sub-conscious minds (1952; 183).

This is precisely the point which has been missed by most researchers involved in the game of Institution building. Be it RRA or FPR or FSR, our inability to root the concepts in the cultural and philosophical bedrock of a society prevents us from grafting or budding an idea in an already grow­ing tree of knowledge. Transplantation of knowledge tree in the post modernist society appears queer to put it mild and shameful to put it strongly.

Any future dialogue at global level will have to take note of what Prof.Y P Singh (1978) said while reviewing various factors influencing farmers' evaluation and adoption of technologies:

There is no royal road to learning, there is no magical cure of these problems. Of course in developing countries many magic planners come forward with magical cure and sometimes they click better with government.

He quoted Khan who observed. "Sick man are lured by the Sufi's Amulat or Sadhu's Nostrum. Sick government are lured by Magical plans and just as there is no dearth of Sufis or Sadhus, there is no shortage of magic planners".

Searching under the Light

There is an old Indian story of an aged woman. She was searching for something under a night lamp in a street. A person passing by asked her about what she was looking for. She said she had lost a stitching needle. The person asked as to where the needle was lost. The lady replied, inside the house. The person was baffled. He asked then why was she searching it in the street. The lady replied because there was a light.

Many researchers and scholars have done the same mistake of looking for ideas and innovations where the light was rather than where it was embedded. When we begin our search for innovations an evidence of local experimentation as well as conceptualization of sustainable technologies and institutions, we face the similar dilemma. Lot of researchers particularly trained in the western tradition might like to search ideas where the light is. The light may be among the articulated people or the articulation may be sought in the external idiom.

Honey Bee Philosophy:

It is being recognized widely that the tropical developing world is gene-rich but often technologically poor while the developed world is gene poor and technologically rich (Gupta, 1991, Fowler and Mooney, 1991). The emerging concern for protecting natural resources and the associated knowl­edge system is valid. However, a few additional dimensions of indigenous ecological and technolog­ical system need to be taken note of:

  1. The regions where bio-diversity is high, (primarily due to diversity in soil, climate and other physical and social structures) are also the regions where poverty levels are very high;
  2. The poverty is high because markets are often unable to generate demand for diverse col­ors, tastes, shapes and qualities of natural products2.Products of mass consumption particularly when processed by machines have low variability because throughput by machines has to be of uniform quality.

  3. The regions of high diversity also have very poor public infrastructure (just in tandem with weak private market forces) because the people have limited surplus to attract public serv­ants, and they are less articulate and organized to create political pressure (except though insurgent movements as is becoming evident from different parts of the world).

  1. The low demand for ecological and technological skills of these communities characterizes them as 'unskilled3' labour pool fit for being a part of the urban slums, squatters or other similar work force. Once the knowledge system is devalued, the cultural and social decline follows. The tenuous relationship with the nature is ruptured. The ecological degradation spurred by various external resource extractors is aided and

abetted by many poor as well as not so poor people for whom survival in short term seems possible only through eco-degrading strategies.

It is in this context that a global voluntary initiative has been launched five years ago to network the people and the activists engaged in eco-restoration and knowledge reconstruction about precious ecological, technological and institutional knowledge systems of people.

The process that we are trying to follow and actualize deals with two way communication and two way power. People should have right to decide what we do with the knowledge they provide and how we share the rent/surplus extracted from the knowledge directly or after value addition. This is an issue dealing with intellectual property rights of the people as well as the ethics of the discourse. How do we attribute or source ideas in formal science publications to the farmers so that the proto­col of attribution for organized and unorganized sectors is not different?

We are also hoping that the network of innovators in due course would hold us accountable for the resources we generate in their name. It is a tragedy that the intellectuals would like every other institution in society to be accountable except themselves.

The name Honey Bee signifies a philosophy of discourse which is liberating, accountable and fair. Honey Bee does two things which, we intellectuals don't.

  1. Honey Bee collects pollen without impoverishing the flowers.

  2. Honey Bee connects flower to flower through pollination.

The idea is that when we collect knowledge of people we should ensure that people don't become poorer after sharing their insights with us. Further, we should also connect one innovator with another through feed back, communication and networking in local language. We have also to share with the providers of knowledge what we did with the knowledge. If we generate consultan­cies or other sources of income by writing on peoples' knowledge, a fair share of this income must accrue to the providers in as explicit manner as possible.

We have already documented more than six hundred innovations in the field of plant protection, veterinary medicine, animal nutrition, soil and water conservation, horticulture, farm implements, etc. In addition, annotated bibliographies have been prepared putting together the indigenous think­ing on agricultural science issues in the ancient text in India, China and other places along with the literature on innovations in other parts of the world. The contemporary context can be understood only by looking at the historical processes carefully.

Recognizing that much of intellectual discourse taking place only in English language remains re­stricted to a very limited section of society (alienated and often devoid of any pride or confidence in the indigenous creativity), we have decided to not only study vernacular literature on the subject but also feed back our findings in various languages with the innovators as well as others.

The accountability of intellectuals to the sources of ideas, in this case, innovators at grassroots level, has been sought through the concept of Honey Bee as a metaphor.


Honey Bee network extends to over sixty countries but maximum members are obviously from India and from various categories including unemployed rural youth, students, farmers, NGOs (aided as well as non-aided), professionals, institutions, etc. The Honey Bee newsletter is brought out in six languages viz., Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Oriya, English, Zongkha (Bhutanese). We have received very persuasive offers of collaboration for Bengali and Malayalam versions. Marathi version is in the final stages.

As mentioned above, idea is that innovators in one region should be able to interact with innovators in other regions which would be possible in the local language only. The cross fertilization of ideas and heuristics would hopefully create pressure on the formal systems for reform and restructuring. There is a lot which is correct and sustainable in the formal agricultural research and technology transfer systems. The private formal initiatives in agricultural research are either very rare or are often stifled. Given the ecological and cultural variability, uniform solutions would neither apply nor reinforce local adaptive skills.

Sustainable development of natural resources in different parts of the country but particularly the more vulnerable ones (drought prone, flood prone, hill or forest regions) will not take place unless the local knowledge, perceptions, and institutions become the building block of future development. To some extent, various social conflicts taking place in these regions can be traced to the neglect of above dimensions.

It is not that local ecological knowledge systems are important only for local development. We have identified numerous cases in which the indigenous innovations can extend the frontiers of science. New concepts or techniques can be developed which will strengthen the processes of local auton­omy through creativity.
What Next!

Long Term Goals:

There is a recognized need not only in developing countries but also in developed countries for reorienting research and education processes to incorporate greater sensitivity towards nature. While transformation of this kind cannot be achieved through a centralized lab to land model as followed by CG system (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research-CGIAR), the need for a coordinating centre for networking autonomous and independent initiatives still remains. Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) aims to provide such a hub. In due course an International Centre may be developed which apart from networking may provide a global forum for authentic and accountable discourse on indigenous ecological knowledge.

The Centre would also provide a registering facility for the innovations and inventions so that patent protection can be invoked in favor of individuals or communities developing these innovations.

It is also hoped that SRISTI and its associated institutions including International Centre will be governed by the grassroots innovators. Much is said about accountability and transparency though even the basic documents such as balance sheet of an organization is never shared with the people with whom one is working. SRISTI would try to set standards in this regard.

It is obvious that North-South relations are not going to be easily transformed. The recent conflicts on the intellectual property right (IPRs) regime clearly indicate the short sighted view of biodiversity and related knowledge system taken by the Western institutions. There is no reason why disadvantaged communities should maintain biodiversity if in the process they have to remain poor (Gupta, 1990). The entire modernization paradigm builds upon what people do not know. Instead of what people know. The ecological, technological, institutional and cultural knowledge of the nature conserving communities is the basic building block of our work.

We hope that future initiatives in not just agricultural sector but every other sector of global econo­my would be based on the existing knowledge of nature dependent communities.

In passing, one may add that if global climatic changes do indeed take place, and environmental fluctuations dominate the regions which have managed without much fluctuation, then the skills of people used to dealing with wide fluctuations would be in greatest demand. Who would be these people except the ones inhabiting forests, hill areas and drought and flood prone regions? For this reason too we need to understand the logic of survival of the disadvantaged communities creatively.

Computerized Data Base

A computerized data base is sought to be developed which can be used through electronic mail on the pattern of NAPRALERT but emphasizing complimentarity with it. The focus of NAPRALERT is more on human drugs and thus the information on botanicals for animal or plant health is limited. INSTAR (innovations for Sustainable Technology Applications and Registration) or some other such name may have to be chosen for the proposed data base. It should be developed in various global languages in due course so that people can also access it through decentralized availability of computers near local biodiversity gardens or parks or collections.

Preliminary screening of botanical knowledge of the people has already revealed plants of pesticidal importance (n = 250) and veterinary medicinal importance (n = 340). These plants can be taken up for further experimental research. We have also been screening these plants through the University of Illinois, Chicago data base called as NAPRALERT to find out the relative uniqueness of the peas­ant knowledge. The NAPRALERT screens about 500 journals every month on natural products and ethno-ecological knowledge. We have documented already more that 1200 innovations.

We are discovering several plants on which either not much work has been done or work has not been done from the perspective from which people have used the same.

Idea is to explore whether some innovative solution discovered in one developing country can be of use in another developing country as a concept, recipe or just an analytical approach. We are con­scious of the limitations of traditional technology transfer approaches in rainfed high risk environ­ments. At the same time we realise that cross fertilization of ideas is most important to provide vibrance to local creativity. We strongly disapprove of the attempts to restrict the scope of technol­ogy development in difficult regions to only adaptive trials by the farmers. Cross cultural and cross regional dialogue would in fact help in the theory formation not just by the scientists but even by the creative farmers, pastoralists and artisans.

We also hope that some of the third world innovations can provide basis for developing sustainable technologies even in the developed world4? May be that would generate demand for third world skills and herbal and other products.

An International Documentation Center On Indigenous Innovations For Sustainable Development to be set at IIM-A (or supported by IIM-A) to help reorient the ongoing development assistance, trig­ger climate for greater self help and lateral learning (i.e. learning from each other) and build positive linkages with in existing developmental projects whether supported internally or by external agen­cies.

Why less public attention?

There are several constraints in increasing public attention towards this important area of research and action in developing countries. Given weak consumer appreciation for ecological agriculture or eco-friendly products in developing countries, the market for herbal products may not be very large to begin with. But the need of organic producers in Europe can certainly be met by the third world peasant innovations to some extent. Some of the same innovations could in due course or even simultaneously be popularized in the developing country donating this knowledge.

After all, the active ingredient of most chemical pesticides are imported at a great cost to the economy and ecological conditions of developing societies. The change in that regard would there­fore have to be attempted at both the ends (i.e. in developed and developing countries).

The key objectives of SRISTI are to strengthen the capacity of grassroots level innovators and inventors engaged in conserving biodiversity to (a) protect their intellectual property rights, (b) ex­periment to add value to their knowledge (c) evolve entrepreneurial ability to generate returns from this knowledge and (d) enrich their cultural and institutional basis of dealing with nature.

How do we want to achieve above goals?

a: Strategy for Further research by SRISTI:

  1. To analysis the relationship between indigenous basis of classification of soil, climate, plants, pets, insects, etc. To discover underlying basis of the same. This would help not only in uncovering new scientific concepts but also in targeting extremely developed low input technologies.
  2. To support experiments in farmers' field, agricultural universities and in collaboration with private small scale entrepreneurs for developing or help in developing commercializable herbal products for use in India as well as other developing and developed countries. The results would be interpreted through multiple heuristics i.e. the cultural and religious catego­ries will be given as much importance as other so called more rational categories.

  3. Study of indigenous folkloric nature conserving traditions particularly riddles, proverbs besides songs and stories, this will help in embedding secular technological ideas in sacred institutions.

  4. To sponsor postgraduate research and development of training material for distance learning as well as in the work shops for natural science and other faculties.

  5. Research on intellectual property rights and legal registration support to the innovators,

  6. Entrepreneurial development for value additions in local innovations.

  7. Market research for prospecting the scope for development of herbal pesticides and other such products for use by intensive agricultural farmers as well as organic farmers.
  8. Organization of biodiversity contests for triggering local initiative for conservation, identifica­tion of endangered species and other eroding parts of ecological knowledge systems. One such contest was organized through a NGO in South Indian in December. 1991. A student of class Fifth who came first could identify as many as 116 different plant species and varieties with their uses. The farmer who came first could identify only 240 different plant types. The remarkable thing about this is that this student of 12 years of age had covered half the intellectual journey covered by the most knowledgeable adult of the community at that age. Such contests may help in uncovering the tacit knowledge in a competitive mode and help restore the pride of the people in their own knowledge. In second contest organ­ized in Village Gangagarh, UP in Northern India, all the three students who got first three prizes were from sixth class and could identify about 65 plants with their uses, maximum being 80. It is not surprising that biodiversity in this predominantly irrigated village was half of the South Indian dry village.

  9. Orientation workshop for young political leaders as well as media planners, journalists par­ticularly of vernacular news papers to generate sensitivity about scouting local creativity and documenting their innovative ethics.

  10. Establishment of bulletin board and or a global electronic mail network on indigenous ecological knowledge system and grass root innovations called as SRISTI net or INSTAR (Interna­tional Network for Sustainable Technological Application and Registration). The effort will also be made to set up a server on SUN system (or a similar system) for making certain automated databases available through electronic mail to registered users. These databases would try to make certain aspects of knowledge as common property among the bonafide users. Efforts will also be made to acquire communication technologies and hardware by which direct link can be made through satellite without having to use telephone lines. Alternatively we will gain independent access to the electronic mail network ethernet established by Indian Telecommunication Department.

b) Data Base Development

i) Efforts will be initiated to identify expertise for development of local language data bases for flow of information across language barriers with the purpose of storing information on innovations. At the same time existing software will be used for documenting both the literature and field innovation data base.

ii) A system of registration of innovations across the world will be developed so that legal and other steps could be taken up for filing patents and occasionally court cases on finding in­fringement of rights of grass roots innovators and inventors.

iii) To develop or collaborate with software designers in evolving software which can interlink information in different data bases such as NAPRALERT and MEDFLOR at college of Pharm­acy, University of Illinois, Chicago. Since NAPRALERT has more than 100 thousand refer­ences on about 46 thousand species with full scientific, biological, biochemical and biosafety information, there would be obviously no purpose served in duplicating the effort. Dr. Farnsworth has made this data base accessible freely to scholars from third world though the same is available to drug companies and other Western scholars for a price.

c) Legal Support

Legal expertise will be mobilized through existing institutions for strengthening the IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) of grass root innovators. Since this activity would require close cooperation among the concerned legal NGOs across the world, we will learn from the experience of existing NGOs and strengthen their capacity to appreciate finer biological, ecological, technological and institutional dimensions of intellectual property rights.

d) Market Research, Product Development and Testing

i) It is necessary that if grassroots innovators and inventors have to compete with Multi National Corporations then they should have access to same tools and techniques as available to the competitors. Given SRISTI's close relation with IIMA mobilizing professional expertise would not pose any problem. Wherever possible and necessary support from private en­trepreneurs would be taken. Links would be established with reputed scientific and techno­logical institutions across the world so that the grass root level innovators get the best technical and market research expertise for launching their products.

Education and Training

i) There has been a significant increase in the interest in indigenous ecological knowledge

system across the world. While rigorous empirical and conceptual studies have been lack­ing, emergence of this interest in indeed a positive sign. Sustenance of this interest will however depend upon the availability of demystified and easy to use methods and ap­proaches which can convert individual interest into initiative and initiative into action and reflection. We have been opposed to so called rapid rural appraisal (RRA) methods or other variants of the same. We have evolved simple and robust analytical approaches which make us dispensable while pursuing search for innovations. The comparative effectiveness of our approach vis-a-vis the much celebrated and sold RRA/PRA can be gauged from the fact that while we have around 1000 indigenous innovations in our data base, all other groups in different parts of the world would not claim even to have a few dozens with name and addresses of the relevant community.

We intend to organize training workshops and educational materials for use by natural as well as social scientists to incorporate insights from indigenous ecological knowledge system into the curricula at different levels.

ii) The curriculum reform requires linkages at multiple levels in the educational system. The postgraduate, graduate, school, and pre-school education would need to be reoriented to incorporate insights from indigenous ecological knowledge systems.

iii) Summer schools for the teachers from various colleges may be organized at IIMA so s to generate critical scrutiny of the concepts and approaches available in indigenous knowledge systems from different disciplinary perspectives.


In 1995, an international conference will be organized on indigenous ecological knowledge systems at IIMA in which apart from presenting our own work, we would invite presentations by the global community of scholars on the subject. We will try to hold SRISTI sponsored conferences once in three years in different parts of the world. Only those colleagues would be invited who have shared their ideas and work with the local communities in local language. Even if there are scholars who have gained reputation but have not followed this practice, we will nor compromise. Hopefully, the intellectual discourse in due course will become more authentic and accountable towards those whose knowledge we document, write about and generate personal professional rewards.

We look forward to wider participation in building upon the indigenous genius of developing socie­ties.

1 Paper invited for the International Conference on Global Forum on Poverty and Environment, BCAS, Dhaka, July 22-24, 1993. Comments and querries about SRISTI and Honey Bee network may be addressed to the author:

Prof Anil K Gupta, Coordinator, SRISTI C/o Indian institute of Management, Ahmedabad 380015, Fax 91 079-26307341 and email:

2 There are some exceptions to this dominant trend. French wine produced out of grapes grown on par­ticular small patches of land has generated strong consumer demand, notwithstanding the recent GATT or EEC provisions (reinforcing uniformity of production systems). Tea and honey are two other such products. These exceptions only prove that market finds it difficult but not impossible to reinforce biodiversity. We have to discover the right kind of incentives and regulatory framework which

will induce markets to do so.

3 We do not think that there is any person who does not have any skill. The term ‘unskilled’ is infact an admission of our inability to deal with knowledge of others.

4 During my recent visit to organic and other producers in Denmark, I learned that fungal diseases were a very serious problem in wheat and some other crops. In dry part of Gujarat, some farmers tried to use fifteen day old flour millet which is unfit for human consumption as dust for disease control. Perhaps the molds in the flour include some microtoxins which can be used as fungicide. If this is proved, a big market may emerge for millet produce particularly in the years when production is large or when people have alternative means. The technology will course be sustainable


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