Interviews

"Mera goan,mera gourav", IARI's lab to farm approach

Dr. J. P. Sharma has joined Joint Director (Extension), IARI, New Delhi on 1st October, 2014. Previously he was working as Head, Division of Agricultural Extension and Director, Centre for Advanced Faculty Training (Extension) at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. He has a vast experience of 28 years conducting strategic research, guiding, teaching post graduate students, conducting national / international training programmes and carrying out agricultural extension activities in the farmers’ field. He earned his Doctoral degree from IIT, Delhi and Post Graduation from GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, and was awarded Fellowships from IIT and UNDP respectively. He is an accredited entrepreneurial motivational trainer.

He has published more than 300 papers in reputed journals, magazines and newspapers, published 30 books, bulletins and is editor of journals of repute like Journal of Community Mobilization for Sustainable Development.  He has organized more than 100 trainings including national & international programmes as course Director on the topics of national relevance. He has received more than 60 awards/ recognition including some international awards for making outstanding contributions for the upliftment of the farming community.

Dr J P Sharma highlighted the role of the IARI and the development of the villages as `Mera Gaon Mera Gourav` and spoke about the agri-preneurship among the farmers and in regard to the Hon`ble Prime Minister`s Mission of Doubling the Farmers Income.

The Excerpts are here:

Being an agrarian economy led country; India has given colossal significance  to the development of agriculture sector and prosperity of farmers in the nation from the independent era to till date.

Then and now government has initiated and implemented many farmer and field oriented development programmes and projects to make and magnify opulence in the agriculture.

 Futurist government of India till date along with diligent scientists and passionate farmers had viewed many dreams and converted that trance in to action, which made many revolutions like Green, Blue, White, Pink, Yellow in the production and productivity in agriculture and allied sectors during late 60’s to late 80’s.

The Role of IARI in the service of the Farming Community?

Along with different ministries and line department, the Indian Council of Agricultural research (ICAR) the apex agriculture research body established on 16 July, 1929, as a registered as a society played a distinguished role for the revolutionary changes in the agriculture. ICAR had made different programmes to transfer the knowledge that created in its laboratories to make wisdom in the farmers filed. National demonstration (1964), Operational research Project (1974) and Lab to Land Programme (LLP) launched in 1979 as a part of the Golden Jubilee celebration of ICAR with objective of economic and social development of the farmers were some among them.

Majesty achieved by the agriculture segment during those days with implementation of different development initiatives is diminished now a days, due to various reasons including the decreased resources availability, urbanization, frequent fragmentation of the farm land, substantial diversion of interest of the people to service sector, reduced returns from the farm and more over the disinterest of the youth to do farming. Even though scientific advancement reached the position to find the life particles in planets of inner and outer galaxy, there is no alternative or progression in science which could find some options other than the agriculture to feed the ever growing population. Research and development in agriculture sector also reached micro and nano levels. But there is no fun of doing research and inventing technology if they are not accepted and adopted by farmers. Similarly it is meaningless to do extension work if one can’t able to convince farmers to adopt these labs technologies and urge them to change their age old practices to get better price. To facilitate the prosperous farming there felt a need of regular and proper scientific and authoritative system to address farmers’ grievances, to provide timely and location specific technologies and information and to consider farmers as agripreneurs not merely cultivators. Timely supply of information on economics and policy aspects, market rates, facilities provided by different agencies, new research findings and technologies etc. to the section of farmers are required for better output and even development of farming sector. This realization made a rational change in the approach towards farmers’ and farming community from all the sectors of the economy.

"Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav” an innovative initiative, in this context will hasten the lab to land approach, planned to promote the direct interface of scientists with the farmers, with an objective to  provide farmers with required knowledge and advisories regularly was launched by present government on July 25 on 2015 This programme extended these responsibilities to about 6,000 scientists functioning at the various centres and institutes of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and over 15,000 scientists working with state agricultural universities. A planned execution to reach to the door steps of farmers Through this novel initiative 20,000 scientists of National Agricultural Research and Education System (NARES) can work directly in villages. Keeping farmers at the centre point, a group of multi disciplinary scientists will select some villages. Each group of four scientist are asked to “adopt” five villages within a radius of maximum 100 km from their respective institute. Scientists need to keep in touch with those village farmers to provide information on technical and other associated aspects in a time frame through personal visits or with the help of communication aids. Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav (MGMG) programme has the decentralised pattern of information and knowledge flow from and to the grass root farmers’ level. It also has a centralised and organized way of baseline data gathering at the top level. This is achieved through a multilayer hierarchical system planned in ICAR.

How IARI is helping the Farmers?

At national level, Assistant Director General (Agricultural Extension) or one nominated Principal Scientist, Division of Agricultural Extension, ICAR, New Delhi, is acting as the Nodal Officer for the entire programme. Director, Agricultural Technology Application Research Institute (ATARI) supported by one scientist of the Institute, is acting as the Nodal Officer at the zonal level. A nominated Principal Scientist/Professor is acting as the nodal officer at Institute or Agricultural University level. Nodal officers at Institute or University level need to submit their benchmark survey (a uniform baseline information collection schedule) and quarterly reports to Director, ATARI who will send the consolidated report to Assistant Director General/ Principal Scientist (Agricultural Extension). Benchmark survey should cover all the aspects like farming, climate, and social and economic conditions of the selected villages. In this scheme the scientists in the ICAR institute and agricultural universities should perform the activities in the field level with the help of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) which are the fundamental agencies to do extension work.

How IARI solving the Farmers Problem?

Besides the technological demonstrations conducted in the farmers’ fields, this scheme aimed

to provide information on market rates and market trends of the various crop produces cultivating in that area to the farmers, so that the farmers can earn better prise. It also aimed to create a convergent action of all the farmer centric organizations like, NGOs, FPOs, PPOs by providing information related to them to the farmers by the scientist in action. It will help the farmers to contact these organisations for finding solutions to their agriculture related problems. The area of action and awareness creation by the scientists are not restricted to crop cultivation practices but it also include protective measures on other issues of local and national importance like climate change, soil fertility, water conservation, customized services, clean village and clean production which can linked to Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan etc.

Striding towards the dream accomplishment Trepidations of bearing additional responsibilities of extension by ICAR scientists along with the mandated functions of doing fundamental research, inventions and discoveries invited some criticism from the scientific and researchers community in the beginning and made disquiet among them. This cloistered view led to the thinking that if scientists are engaged in MGMG, it will definitely direct to research casualties with a situation of not having enough of research in hands to extend for meeting the future challenges in agriculture. The priority research and invention activities will almost come to languish due to this action.

Apprehensions also pointed that the programme may lead to happy acceptance by some scientists who may wish to take research holidays as they are scarcely able to cope up with the challenges of quality research. Another criticism that if the ICAR institutes and state agricultural universities those meant for training the line departmental officials to do extension work effectively, they themselves involved in the extension activities may lead to bad shape for ICAR, suffering from acute shortage of staff and facilities to do fundamental research.

Despite all these apprehensions, the programme is proceeding with a positive momentum. According to the statistics from ICAR annual report 2017-18, the innovative flagship programme Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav (MGMG) of ICAR is operational and being monitored by 11 zones in the country through ATARIs. A total of 126 institutions including ICAR institutes and SAU’s are working under this. During 2016-17, total 1,226 groups were formed by involving 4,774 scientists under ICAR institutes and SAUs. Through training, demonstration, literature distribution, general awareness and linkages developed with other departments and organizations, a total of 976,033 farmers from 5,346 villages were benefited under this programme. Being the premier institutes of agricultural research, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and Indian Agricultural Statistical Research Institute (IASRI) are contributing significantly to the programme success. From these two organizations itself , scientists adopted 600 villages of 17 districts from four states (Rajasthan, Haryana, Utter Pradesh and Delhi).

What is Mera Gaon, Mera Gaurav ?

Apprehensions before the implementation of the MGMG programme were ruled out by the cooperation of dedicated team of scientists and the farming communities in the course of action. A mutualism could be observe in the benefit sharing mechanism among the farmers and the scientists i.e. farmers are getting information, knowledge and practice of doing advanced cultivation techniques, facilitated collaboration with other organizations and panchayat for the ease of access and implementation of the government scheme for the farming community, mean while scientists are benefited with the real time data gathering for framing the need based research priorities for the scientific community and moreover the satisfaction and happiness of scientist to see their work output got accepted by the farmers and benefiting them to get rid of the production and productivity related problems. This programme will definity help to spend the huge quantum of money allotted to the research activities for doing priority based research instead of doing vested and personal interested research. Scientists may confine to some particular field after doing specialization in one subject. But the MGMG programme with the team of multidisciplinary scientists will create a situation where the sharing of the research advancement in different filed in the common platform and widening the scope of research in a collaborative way to address the issues felt in the field. Besides a large repository of the baseline village information are being collected and stored at the ICAR headquarter level. This can be shared with different ministries to make development policies and programmes to create self sustainable model villages.

Structural modifications raised by the villages and farmers like, need of uninterrupted electricity and water supply, construction of facilities like veterinary health centre, primary health centre, educational institutions, maternity benefit sharing centres etc, are not immediately addressable issues by the scientific community. Even though these are the some restraining factors to seal the enthusiastic work of the scientist, the collaborative work with the panchayat and other ministerial department can definitely find the solution to fix the problems raised by the villages. Synergic action and planned behaviour of the different development agencies along with the scientist who gained the first hand knowledge about the villages can prioritise the problems which need immediate solutions and do the actions according to the possible way out. Thus MGMG programme will undeniably make optimistic change in the vision of the scientific and research community and will reflect in the prosperity in the future of the farmers.


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