Lab to Land: Bridging the Gap
From Lab to land, still a lot needs to be done and responsibility does not rest on one stakeholder
Post by DR. PARVEEN KUMAR on Thursday, September 22, 2022
While addressing a gathering of scientists on the occasion of 86th foundation day of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Hon’ble Prime Minister of the country Sh. Narendra Modi called for a ‘lab to land’ approach and asked them to increase farm productivity by disseminating technologies to farmers in simple and acceptable manner and make ‘per drop, more crop’ a mantra to promote farming through optimum utilization of water. Hon’ble Primeminister called for finding out ways to produce more on less land and in less time without any quality erosion. He emphasized upon the need to increase per hectare productivity by adopting short duration crop varieties and also called for judicious mix of traditional wisdom and new technologies to improve soil health and fertility. The PM also stressed upon strengthening capabilities of farmers so that food security can be ensured for the country and the world along with the enhancement of profits for them.
India has the huge pool of scientific manpower and a largest network of agriculture institutes located throughout the length and breadth of the country. This network is constantly engaged in developing and disseminating new technologies through research, teaching and extension activities much to the benefit of the farming community. Soon after the country attained independence, it faced scarcity of food grains and the food grains had to be imported from other countries. Fortunes of the country changed only after the green revolution of the 1960s which made the country self sufficient in food grains production. This green revolution was as a result of the technological interventions in terms of high yielding and hybrid varieties of Wheat and Paddy, chemical fertilizers and plant protection chemicals coupled with the expansion of irrigation infrastructure. The technological interventions have now enabled the country not only to meet its own food grains requirements but also to export various commodities to other countries also. Over the years, technologies have proved to be extremely useful in the agricultural sector and these are being increasingly used in different aspects of agriculture such as the application of herbicide, pesticide, fertilizer, and improved seed. Technologies in Agricultural Biotechnology have also enabled the farmers to grow crops in areas where they once thought could not grow. Technologies in Genetic Engineering have made it possible to introduce certain strains into other genes of crops or animals. Such engineering boosts the resistance of the crops to pests (e.g. Bt Cotton) and droughts. Through technology, farmers are in a position to electrify every process for efficiency and improved production.
Unfortunately, there exists a huge gap between what is developed n the laboratories and what ultimately reaches land. The technology adoption rate is low in the country. Most of the technologies developed in laboratories remain in the shelves and do not reach the land thereby depriving a large benefit of potential stakeholders of their potential benefits. Technology adoption is the process of accepting, integrating, and using new technologies in society. The process follows several stages, usually categorized by the groups of people who use that technology. There is no doubt that modernisation of the agriculture sector will continue by infusion of new technologies so that farmers can increase their income. The need is to enhance the adoption rate of these new technologies particularly among the marginal and small farmers. Low and slow adoption of improved agricultural technologies among smallholders often frustrate technology development and promotion efforts not only in the country but also in the developing world. Let us have a look at how the gap between Lab to land can be bridged.
Awareness and Exposure: A research study done in Syria proved that increasing farmer’s awareness and exposure to new agricultural technologies by the creation of systematic linkages in the research to development continuum affect adoption rates positively. The awareness and exposure can be increased through organized field days and demonstration trials, complemented with providing free access to costly implements for first-time users. It increases the propensity, speed, and intensity of adoption. The intensity of adoption is also positively influenced by acreage and farmers' access to credit. The findings of this study highlight the importance of facilitating farmers' initial exposure and ease of trying out new agricultural technologies, especially those requiring high initial investment at low or no cost in ensuring fast and large-scale adoption.
Focusing on Attributes: Research studies also show that adoption of new technologies depend upon some attributes of that particular technology. These include a. relative advantage i. e how improved an innovation is over the previous one; b. compatibility i. e the level of compatibility that an innovation has to be assimilated into an individual’s life; c. complexity i. e complex the new technology to be put in practice and technologies too complex are not likely to be adopted. Trial ability is also an important factor which means how easily an innovation may be experimented with as it is being adopted. Another factor is the Observability which means the extent that an innovation is visible to others. Technologies having positive attributes have better chances of adoption.
Popular Participation: Hon’ble Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi also called for enriching our research with the experience of people on the field. For the technologies to have higher adoption rates the technologies also need to be responsive to the needs of local peoples. Technologies should be developed in such a way that they enable the conceptual capacity of the grassroots to be used in this innovative process. The unfortunate thing is that in most of the cases these grassroots are excluded from the processes of needs analysis, from the intellectual framework in which the technology is being developed and from participating in creating strategies for distribution. They are left with the choice to consume or to not consume. Technologies developed without ensuring popular participation in this manner ultimately suffer from low adoption rates and thus prove to be a failure.
Indigenous Technical Knowledge: National Academy of Agriculture Research Management (NAARM) defines Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) as specifically concerned with actual application of the thinking of the local people in various operations of agriculture and allied areas. Indigenous Knowledge refers to the unique, traditional, local knowledge existing within and developed around the specific conditions of women and men indigenous to a particular geographic area. Indigenous knowledge is the local knowledge; knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society. Indigenous Knowledge contrasts with the international knowledge system generated by universities, research institutions and private firms. It is the basis for local-level decision in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education, natural resource management, and a host of their activities in rural communities. Technologies that come out from the refinement of the ITKs withstand have more chances of being adopted on a wider scale.
Strengthening Research Extension Farmer Linkages: In agriculture sector, for the development and dissemination of technologies, three ultimate stakeholders are involved viz the researcher, the extensionist and the farmers. Studies reveal that effective communication links between Researchers, Extensionists and Farmers are vital for technology adoption and also in the modification of technological recommendations and in initiating further research. Such links also enable new technologies and management practices to be suited to local ecological conditions.
Appropriate Market: Now, the focus is on Market Led Extension. It is the market ward orientation of agriculture through extension. It includes agriculture and economics and is the perfect blend for reaching at the door steps of farming community with the help of appropriate technology. Technologies that have a scope in the market and to which farming community perceives as having a readymade market stand more chance of getting adopted easily than for which no market exists.
Remunerative, Empowering and Sustainable: Agriculture today faces challenge of being non remunerative. The cost of cultivation has increased too much and the net incomes of farming communities have declined. Also most of the technologies of the Green revolution era have proved to be unsustainable adversely affecting our environment and the natural resources. Today we need technologies more so in the agricultural sector that reduce the cost of cultivation and make farming more remunerative for them; technologies that are environmental friendly and do not interfere with the nature and finally which empower the ones standing at the grassroots. Technologies also need to be culturally compatible, economically viable and socially acceptable.
The revolutions brought out and still taking place in the country in different sectors including agriculture, dairy, livestock, health, industries, services and others owe it to the use of many such technologies. Still there are many technologies that do not reach the farming community and many others which are not exploited to the full. From Lab to land, still a lot needs to be done and responsibility does not rest on one stakeholder. Ultimately all those who are involved and have a bearing have to do more on their part. Hon’ble Prime Minister of the country has also called upon the scientists to win the confidence of farmers so that they adopt their technologies with hope.
(Dr. Kumar is a Faculty at SKUAST-K. He can be reached at email@example.com