When India's breathtaking Green Revolution in 1960s had
delivered the land beyond the reach of famine, sober minds began to
consider the road ahead. The agricultural revolution had in fact been
world wide, brought on by high yielding seeds and fertiliser inputs. The
global revolution had been spear-headed by four institutions: CIAT [in
Colombia], CIMMYT [in Mexico], IITA [in Nigeria] and notably for India,
IRRI [International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines].
The emerging issue at hand was sustainability of the
successes. The concern led to the creation in 1971 of CGIAR
[Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research] backed by
the World Bank and several governments. CGIAR began as a hub for
connecting the above four institutions and has since grown into a huge
network. [You can read the
CGIAR story here. ]
The grain revolution needed to be broadened to address
other crucial areas: pulses, vegetables, oilseeds, dairy, nutrition,
empowerment, participation and so on. The upshot was a series of Future
Harvest Centers under the aegis of CGIAR. Today there are 16 around the
world. ICRISAT [International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid
Tropics], one of those Centers, was the gift to India. Established in
Hyderabad in 1972, ICRISAT has been living up to its name. It has
observed India's farm scene, found lacunae and intervened with state of
the art research.
More laudably, ICRISAT has also walked behind India's
ancient farmer and paid heed to his wise ways. Over 5000 years of human
habitation on this Indian sub-continent cannot have been possible, if
its farmers had not been industrious and innovative.
What follows is an excerpt from the
ICRISAT site . It is a heart-warming story of scientists and Indian
farmers interacting and exchanging knowledge. It is reproduced
here courtesy the express permission set out at the ICRISAT
site. This story's presence here is also due to the tip sent by Mr.
Anand Mulgund, a well-wisher of GoodNewsIndia's mission.
Recovering Indigenous Knowledge: The Pigeonpea
Eighty-year-old Mr Bitchappa's advice was almost easy
beyond belief: shake the infamous podborers off pigeonpea plants, and
save US$ 310 millions annually , the estimated worldwide pigeonpea crop
losses due to the podborer Helicoverpa. Mr Bitchappa's fellow farmers in
Hamsanapalli village, in Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh (AP),
had come to him because pigeonpea losses in their village were becoming
intolerable -- between 20 and 100 percent of their crops were lost to
the deadly podborer.
Over 4 million ha worldwide, mainly in southern Asia
and eastern Africa, are under pigeonpea. This grain legume is a major
source of inexpensive protein (20%), fodder, and fuel in the tropics and
the subtropics. By 1993, 100% of pigeonpea farmers were using chemical
control in India. Applying 3-6 sprays of chemicals became common
practice. While this worked fine to start with, soon yields began to
decline, and the high insecticide investment began to hurt farmers.
Enter Mr Bitchappa.
A party for chickens:
In a farmer-participatory discussion organized in Mr
Bitchappa's village by the NGO, Research in Environment, Education and
Development Society (REEDS), the village elder recalled how, in the
pre-insecticide days, pigeonpea plants were gently shaken, and podborer
larvae dropped off the plants. The larvae were collected in a sheet
which was dragged along the ground in the interspace between rows of
pigeonpea plants. A few hens were allowed to follow this sheet, and the
plump worms provided a high-protein feast for the voracious birds!
However, private agencies were skeptical about the
applicability, efficiency, and economics of this 'shake-down' technique.
So, during the 1998-1999 season, this indigenous technology was
evaluated in a 15-ha research watershed at ICRISAT-Patancheru, with
support from IFAD and in collaboration with ICAR, ANGRAU, MAU, and NGOs
under the coordination of CWS.
Spreading the message:
The results were spectacular: when plants were 'shaken
down' an 85% reduction in insect population was achieved, while the
larval population in the adjacent, chemically sprayed plots remained
high throughout the cropping period. The 'pigeonpea shake-down' wins
hands down on the cost-front too: it costs just Rs 280 (US $ 6) per
hectare to have 7 people to shake pigeonpea plants, and collect larvae;
and each chemical spray costs Rs 500-700 (US $ 11-16) per hectare.
This technology, initiated at a few locations during
1997, rapidly spread to more than 100 villages involving several
thousand farmers in three states of southern India within 2 years. All
these farmers continue to use the method. "We are working with
farmers, NGOs to include this simple indigenous cultural practice
as a critical component of our IPM strategy for pigeonpea," says
ICRISAT entomologist G V Ranga Rao.
A fuller -- and more technical-- version of this story
may be found at this