Book #5: Science of the Articulate. IMOD as ICRISAT & Partners' New Drylands Strategy

5 articulate29 April 2012, American Chronicle
MANILA - "The best for the best" is what I wrote in the Author's Introduction to my brand new international book, 138 pages, all 62 photos in full color. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet have believed.

Based in Hyderabad in India, ICRISAT has just published my 5th book on the arts and sciences relating to international agriculture, especially in Africa and Asia; you're looking at a scan of the CD insert at the back of the book; the title of the book is the exact title of this essay. (I call her the Kangaroo Lady, meaning native and adaptive. If you want a copy, you might want to visit icrisat.org and send an email.)

Why the title? From what I have seen, ICRISAT is the most articulate among the 15 centers of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research based in Washington DC and supported by the World Bank. The Director General of ICRISAT is William Dar. With his leadership, for sure, ICRISAT is primus inter pares, the first among peers, Outstanding. The complete list of Distinguished CGIAR Centers is as follows:

Africa Rice Center (based in Benin)
Bioversity International (Rome)
CIAT, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (Colombia)
CIFOR, Center for International Forestry Research (Indonesia)
CIMMYT, Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (Mexico)
CIP, Centro Internacional de la Papa (Peru)
ICARDA, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (Syria)
ICRISAT, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (India)
IFPRI, International Food Policy Research Institute (Washington DC)
IITA, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (Nigeria)
ILRI, International Livestock Research Institute (Kenya)
IRRI, International Rice Research Institute (Philippines)
IWMI, International Water Management Institute (Sri Lanka)
World Agroforestry Centre (Kenya)
WorldFish Center (Malaysia).


My ICRISAT book has 34 chapters, from "IMOD as the iPod of science" (#1), to "Power to the poor, people!" (#8), to "Green water?" (#10), "Science for Africa!" (#18), to "Small is bountiful" (#22), to "Drylands, yes, rainfed, no" (#24), to "The ICRISAT decade" (#26), to "Knowledge Millennium Summit 2011" (#31), to "Poor farmers competitive?" (#34).

The book's title is also mine, including the subtitle. In Chapter 6 (page 20), I said:

And so I understand ICRISAT began to learn from the poor farmers, the literate learning from the illiterate the art & science of the inarticulate, as exemplified in the Adarsha success story of ICRISAT. William Dar says, "We realized that the poorest farmers are really stuck in a poverty trap." Without money, they cannot buy farm inputs; without added inputs, their farms produce less; without surplus, they have nothing to sell - and nothing to buy inputs the next year. "So the poverty cycle just repeats itself," Dar says. "This engine is not gaining traction. It is just spinning its wheels."
Articulate. As it happens, from ICRISAT & Partners, what has been coming out is the art of the inarticulate (folk wisdom, based on practice) embedded in the science of the articulate (findings, based on theory). I like best this definition from the Collins English Dictionary; Articulate means distinct, clear, or definite; well-constructed (thefreedictionary.com).

Thus, we can see an articulate team of scientists and partners as we consider the following 13 concepts from ICRISAT, all original, and all in my book:

(1) Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) - To fight poverty. This is the adopted strategy of ICRISAT & Partners up to 2020. IMOD refers to progress inclusive of the poor farmers by including them as participants from production to processing to marketing to delivery, as much as possible. Read my best essay on the subject, "IMOD as the iPod of science. Out of Africa, out of poverty" (Chapter 1, pages 1-4). I think this is the most important concept in the pursuit of national progress in modern times since the invention of American farm subsidy in the 1930s.

(2) Producer Marketing Groups (PMGs) - To increase farmers' incomes. These are collectives that produce, process and market commodities from farms in ways designed to bring inputs within the reach of poor farmers, cut costs, reduce risks and include these farmers as beneficiaries of added values along the value chain from the farm gate to the consumer's table. In other words, a PMG is designed to eliminate the middleman; in so many ways, the farmers enrich themselves by the sweat of their brows. May their tribes increase!

(3) ICRISAT South-South Initiative (IS-SI) - To increase mutual international assistance. This is an enterprise of international partnerships between Africa and India (icrisat.org). Expected are increased financial and technical supports as well as public-private-patron-people partnerships in science for development. "The initiative will also see better policies, more effective institutions, improved infrastructure, and better access to markets and to higher quality inputs particularly for dryland farmers in India and Africa," Dar said. If the North will not help the South, let the South help itself.

(4) Integrated Genetic and Natural Resources Management (IGNRM) - The idea behind the science of ICRISAT. IGNRM? IGNORE is what I've been trying to do with this one, because it's clearly technical and definitely complicated, but it's distinctly ICRISAT, so I have to deal with it: Integrated means joined with something else; with ICRISAT, what are joined are nature- and man-induced plant breeding (genetic improvement) + improved water, soil, crops and forest management + institutional improvements and innovations (policy) + good agricultural practices such as diversification + conservation of plant and animal stocks. (To conserve resources. I'm glad innocent farmers don't have to go to a farmer field school to try and learn something as complex as that! I'm sure ICRISAT means well.)

(5) Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) - To develop a whole village. IWM is how ICRISAT looks at the success story of Adarsha, where villagers in the Ranga Reddy District of Andhra Pradesh in India built a watershed where none grew before. ICRISAT refers to it completely as "Farmer-Participatory Integrated Watershed Management," implying that the scientists included the farmers as actors in development and not simply reactors, a view from the top, a position of power, but in fact, Adarsha succeeded because it was "all participatory" - farmers and scientists and those from civil society acted as one, and none more important than the others. (For more details, see my "ICRISAT Talk? IGNRM, IWM, IMOD. I'll simplify & say, 'Adarsha!'" americanchronicle.com.)

(6) Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) - To spend less and earn more, ceteris paribus, all things being equal. In March 2009, ICRISAT and the World Wide Fund came out with the SSI training manual on "Improving Sugarcane Cultivation in India" as part of the ICRISAT-WWF project, "Producing More Food Grain with Less Water: Promoting Farm-Based Methods to Improve the Water Productivity" (indg.in). The manual was based on extensive field research by experts and institutes, and incorporated experiences of sugarcane farmers, with focus on decreasing costs and increasing returns. It shows that ICRISAT will work with any willing partner for the poor farmers of the drylands.

(7) Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT) - To fight drought and desertification. This is an ICRISAT & Partners' development initiative to provide the most vulnerable villages of the semi-arid tropics with modern information, to make accessible appropriate high-tech and low-tech communication facilities and systems, as well as at one time build their capacities to adapt to and at another time to mitigate the negative effects of drought and desertification. VASAT shows that instant and intelligent communication initiatives are crucial especially to the illiterate.

(8) Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) - To feed the hungry by themselves. This is an ICRISAT project to help improve the lives of farmers by improving the yields of 2 cereal crops in West Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria), Eastern Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania), and India (Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra): sorghum and millet. ICRISAT says, "The cultivators in those areas are among the most food-insecure in the world." You have to help them help themselves.

(9) Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) - To clean up the food. This is an uncomplicated, cost-effective test developed by ICRISAT for the presence of aflatoxin in food and feed that otherwise would reduce the marketability of farm produce. Aflatoxin has been proven to cause liver cancer and also suppress the immune system (icrisat.org). ELISA directly improves the potential of products for exports and ultimately helps improve human health.

(10) Tropical Legumes (TL) - To grow the best for the worst. TL II is meant to improve the protein nutrition as well as income of farm families in the Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (icrisat.org). As legumes, the common bean, chickpea, cowpea, peanut (ground nut), pigeon pea, and soybean are important in returning the fertility of impoverished soils - and turning impoverished farmers into richer ones.

(11) African Market Garden (AMG). To grow more food with less water, especially where water is as good as gold. AMG is drip irrigation invented by ICRISAT that African women farmers have found to their advantage: No more carrying of water on pails to irrigate the crops! Vegetables are grown in between date palms in a low-cost gravity-driven irrigation system (icrisat.org). This way, income can grow where none grew before.

(12) "Grey to Green Revolution" - To visualize a movement for everyone. The ICRISAT Annual Report for 2000 shows that the institute had already adopted the slogan "Grey to Green Revolution" more than 10 years ago. This was like a whistle in the dark because everyone knew that the semi-arid tropics (SATs) are just that: water-challenged. Today, the science of ICRISAT & Partners has shown many a way for the SATs to go from grey to green. To make a dream come true, first you have to dream.

(13) "Science with a human face" - To visualize a mantra for everyone. This maxim came up in the ICRISAT Annual Report for 2002. All things considered, I think this is the best slogan that any science thinker has come up with since the US Constitution, signed and adopted on 17 September 1787, recognized the importance of science in the progress of a nation. By contrast, when that hallowed Constitution says: "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries," it does not go far enough; it is only promoting "Science with a personal face." Think. "Science with a human face." I'll go for the human anytime!

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