For the better part of the last two years the Agropedia project has been absorbed with placing, at the disposal of the farming households of India, a channel of exchange that is at once handy and authoritative. We call this ICT, information and communication technology, but we do in fact mean social interaction that is useful and enlightening. Village India is a wellspring of knowledge and thought, and through our small efforts, we believe that the gap between the two cultures, in our case of science and rural society, may be bridged with humility and understanding.
We have, over the last year; seen small steps taken that incorporate an element of development policy into Agropedia. Some of this can be seen in the blogs set up by members of the Agropedia community, and in them they have debated prices, costs of cultivation, foreign direct investment in retail, the role of markets, the absence of credit, and many such issues that do not automatically fall under the ICT umbrella. This is most welcome, for Agropedia exists as a complement to the understanding - always a work in progress - of the rural and urban transformations in contemporary India. We do not see our work as being only a gateway between the domains of crop science and communications technology, far from it.
In this, we are guided by the many reasons why development policy should focus on the most vulnerable. These reasons come from the polity that is India: 'kisan' families, sharecroppers, informal labour, trade unions, domestic workers, job workers, the marginal, those with little voice and much promise. We wish to see Agropedia being employed to help define their entitlements and to emphasize non-discrimination and equity. There is a growing view - indeed a conviction in many quarters - that rebalancing our food systems so they can work more equitably is vital for combating hunger and malnutrition.
It is for these reasons that we see Agropedia and its loyal community as enabling cultivating communities to move beyond concepts such as connecting smallholder farmers to 'value chains', so that they may appreciate a new the cultural underpinnings of our marvelous crop biodiversity, to encourage community resilience over the dictates of a production-and-markets system. We envisage Agropedia as being just as catholic about the need for protecting environment and biodiversity as it is about pest management and conservation agriculture.
At Agropedia, we do not conduct surveys that inquire into the causes behind the extreme poverty of smallholder farmers, nor do we analyze the shifts in macroeconomic policy which can bring ruin to growers of a commercial crop.
Nonetheless, these are critical inputs for our effort, for they influence the intersection of crop science and rural livelihoods. The poverty experienced by our fellow citizens, both rural and urban, is multi-dimensional in nature. Such poverty is shaped as much by the natural limits of our ecosystems as our agriculture is - we do not have an unlimited supply of energy and raw materials, nor do our agro-ecological systems have an infinite capacity to absorb pollution and waste.
This is the world that our project inhabits. A complex system with few durable explanations, full of promise provided the two cultures meet and prosper. One such meeting place is Agropedia.
'Krishi Vichar' will provide openings into these trends, views, news, policies, practices and responses - the fabric of our agrarian society and its urban dependents. We welcome your participation in this space.
Submitted by rahul.goswami on Mon, 23/01/2012 - 23:02