Book #4: Village-eye view, 2011. Knowledge as capital, by Team ICRISAT

clip_image00103 February 2011, American Chronicle
MANILA - The knowledge revolution is all over your place even if you haven't noticed, it's all over the world even if you haven't heard. This time it's brought to you by Team ICRISAT in the drylands.

I'm thinking of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics whose Director General is William Dar and whose headquarters is based in Patancheru in Andhra Pradesh, India. The part of the knowledge revolution I have in mind is not only in India where ICRISAT is based but actually covers all of the drylands of Asia and Africa, not to mention those of Australia and the Americas. The knowledge revolution in the drylands waged by ICRISAT & partners is new proof, if new proof is needed, of Peter Drucker's contention in the 1960s that knowledge had become the primary capital of the democratic world.

On that revolution, I have just written another book. Just off the press, ICRISAT Innovations Shape the Future of Drylands (2011, 115 pages) is my 4th book published by ICRISAT on the institutional objectives and outputs of ICRISAT; that's 4 books in 4 years, and since my research for these books of essays have always been on the active theories and actual practices of science of this Institute, I have acquired a comprehensive knowledge of those as well as gained a comprehending ken on how they apply to the semi-arid tropics of the world within and without ICRISAT's initial mandate crops of chickpea, peanut, pearl millet, pigeon pea, and sorghum. Some culture acquired on some agriculture.

My understanding is that Team ICRISAT now emphasizes, on one hand, the conduct of the new or improved extension of knowledge and, on the other hand, the content of the new or improved technology for agriculture, which includes the crop. That constitutes a knowledge revolution in itself - it has always been the transfer of technology that has been emphasized and never been the adoption of a users-friendly approach behind the transfer of technology until ICRISAT came along, as we shall see.

Innovation on innovation. If truth be told, my 4th book, as well as the 1st to the 3rd, is itself a new way of popularizing science, that which has never been taught in schools of journalism, never been written about, and never been tackled in workshops for writers. My way is what I called Franciscan in my very first ICRISAT book, Team ICRISAT Champions the Poor, page 4, derived from my baptismal name Francisco and from the fact that I weave in my faith with facts and fancies, my insights with information - art applied to science.

My Franciscan creativity is such that I do not seem to disagree with anything. Ah, that is because I always find ways to express my thoughts on the matter quite indirectly - and for you to find out either my disappointment or desire, you have to read between the lines!

In the book, I write on subjects from A to Z, from Agriculture to Inclusive Marketing to Zones of Creativity - the last of which is the source of my essays' wit and humor.

Here is the list of the chapters of my 2011 Innovations book:

01 ICRISAT's iMODe. The village as minimum development goal
02 Science journals. World Bank adds value to technical publishing
03 infoDev 2012. ICRISAT, ICT & Nokia in a science context
04 William Dar leads. ICRISAT leads the way
05 Waters of Addakal. Woman, the deadlier species
06 The Saluyot Ambassador. Lessons from India, Philippines
07 Sahel H2O. ICRISAT & AVRDC in Africa
08 Isabela Principle. 1: In dry, don't look at the water!
09 Isabela Principle. 2: In rain, don't look at the water!
10 InfoDev means business. ICRISAT means dryland farmers
11 ICRISAT strat. Drylands & the economics of the little
12 ICRISAT IMOD. AT Magazine encourages India's leaders
13 Hyderabad Declaration. Marketing agribusiness models
14 Grey-Green. Folk wisdom & science grow grass
15 Exploit Science. See Options, Not Obstacles
16 Earth Day 2010. ICRISAT for bracing against perfect storm
17 Dryland challenge. Science, folklore & political will
18 Dar speaks. ICRISAT science with a human face
19 Creative climate science. What ICRISAT can teach US
20 CMU: Blue Oceans and Green Harvests
21 Chickpea on dry. Science steps in, roots go deeper
22 Adarsha Revisited. Impacts of CGIAR research
23 An African Revolution. IMOD Power to the Women!
24 Adarsha Alliance. William Dar as ICRISAT Manager
25 Tanzania & Mali for Mbaazi. The Black Revolution in Africa.


However, rather than briefly discussing the 25 chapters, having just re-viewed the book in its totality, I have come up with what I now call Team ICRISAT's Village-Eye View of Development - essentially looking at the village as the minimum development goal. This is what I call truly users-friendly approach. Users, plural. My village eye sees 4 capital forces contributing to that part of the knowledge revolution spawned by Team ICRISAT:

Village information: ICRISAT has what it calls Village Knowledge Centers (icrisat.org), that which via modern information & communication technologies promptly and properly connect the farmers with questions to the experts with answers or options. ICRISAT's ICT includes the mobile phone and Internet chat. The knowledge centers are run by the Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT) managed by the Institute & partners. With the Village Knowledge Centers, ICRISAT believes it has "brought about the last-mile connectivity" (vasat.icrisat.ac.in) - that is, reached the unreachable. It is so, as it has encouraged the very last node, the farmers themselves to really connect to the network.

Village cropping: The villages in the semi-arid tropics are water-challenged and disease-prone. Now comes Team ICRISAT with crops that are drought survivors and disease resistors - and yield increasers: chickpea, peanut, pearl millet, pigeon pea, and sweet sorghum. Not only crops; ICRISAT has come up with cropping combinations, irrigation and fertilizer techniques that minimize costs and optimize returns. For instance, corn intercropped with pigeon pea grows well even under droughty conditions. In the Sahel, they can grow crops with only drops of water - via the African Market Garden. And anywhere and everywhere, ICRISAT has found that a bottle capful of fertilizer is enough for each hill of a crop to increase yields optimally. So now, a bagful of fertilizer can feed a village!

Village watershed: The forest is a watershed. I learned that long ago in the government office where I worked the longest, the Forest Research Institute, where being a BS Agriculture graduate I had to learn the art & science of forestry on the run as FORI's Chief Information Officer. One of Team ICRISAT innovations that have been most exciting to me is the Adarsha Watershed, that which has served as model for villagers working in behalf of themselves for progress within their village. The Adarsha villagers grew back the watershed that had disappeared, replenished the underground water table, and succeeded in raising crops and livestock that to this date defy droughts and produce in abundance. The Adarsha concept is now being applied in many places in India, China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Village development: For so long have the poor farmers been denied of the values continually added to their farm produce as it goes out the farm gate and reach the consumers in faraway lands. ICRISAT has come up with its strategic approach up to 2020 that it calls Inclusive Market-Oriented Development, IMOD, that which goes beyond enterprise growth and instead focuses on the progress of a whole village, especially those of poor farmers in the countryside. This is what I have called the economics of the little (see my "ICRISAT strat. Drylands & the economics of the little," 03 December 2010, ICRISAT Watch). The title is mine; the technology is ICRISAT's.

In support of all that village-eye view of development is the public-private-people partnership that Team ICRISAT has vigorously nourished with the government, business and donor sectors working along with the people themselves onsite. Consciously or unconsciously, the ICRISAT-led PPP working relationships employ the village-eye view in carrying out common projects and activities: A critical mass of the villagers is into social development. It must be. Team ICRISAT is merely the pusher; ultimately, the people are the users of knowledge. This is what I mean when I say in the last line of my new book:

You don't wage a revolution alone - you wage a revolution with a party!

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