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Participatory knowledge building

In an innovative effort to mainstream locally relevant knowledge to promote sustainable agriculture, DDS is building the capacities of the grassroot professionals. In the process, there is a new knowledge being created and exchanged, wherein the scientific  basis of local practices are being explored and shared.

The shift towards environmentally friendly farming practices, biodiversity based organic farming and low-external-input sustainable agriculture has made indigenous knowledge a critical resource for sustainable agriculture. There is a growing interest among the development practitioners and farm scientists to take a closer look at the local traditions and build new models based on the strengths of these institutions and technologies. Today, this global phenomenon has uncovered huge treasures of traditional knowledge systems.

Deccan Development Society (DDS) has been working with the poor dalit women farmers in Medak district in Telangana State for more than two decades building their capacities to make a dignified living through sustainable agriculture. While encouraging women to follow their traditional knowledge, DDS has also documented the precious local knowledge for adaptation, demonstration and propagation through demonstrations and trainings.

Anjamma showing the traditional method of seed preservation
Anjamma showing the traditional method of seed preservation

Recognizing local traditional knowledge

In order to harness traditional knowledge from experienced farmers for further sharing, local traditional knowledge on organic methods of farming has been gathered through interviewing farmers and women farmers of this region and scientific knowledge is applied to the local content. The traditional knowledge from DDS women farmers like Sammamma of Bidakanne, Anjamma of Gangwar and Lakshmamma of Humnapur were identified, documented and enriched with scientific knowledge.

Sammamma, a Dalit women farmer of Bidakanne village has extensive traditional knowledge on eco friendly agricultural practices and cultivating climate resilient crops.  Lakshmamma in Humnapur village, a farmer with five acres, has a rare seed-bank of 60 to 70 varieties of native seeds stored in earthen pots. Anjamma of Gangwar, Nyalkal mandal has a rich knowledge on seed storage methods.

The documented traditional knowledge of farmers is supported by scientific explanation, before it is disseminated.

Building capacities

The grassroot level extension personnel play a key role in transfer of agricultural technologies and knowledge to the farming community. But when it comes to eco friendly farming practices, experience has revealed that the farmers themselves hold good amount of indigenous knowledge that improve their livelihoods, but need motivation in adopting such technologies. In this scenario, these grassroot extension personnel simply require the platforms and resources to enable them to enhance their knowledge to act as a channel for sharing information among farmers.

To enhance the knowledge of the grassroot extension workers on facilitating knowledge exchange among farmers on agro ecological way of farming, three-day workshops were conducted during November 2015 in Telangana State. These workshops were organized for agricultural extension personnel of all the 46 mandals of Medak district, in seven batches, at DDS Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Zaheerabad, Medak. Also included were ATMA (Agriculture Technology Management Agency) staff, Indira Kranti Patham (IKP) coordinator and NGO staff directly working with the farmers in the district. The initiative was supported by Agriculture Technology Management Agency, Medak district.

Participatory techniques were used in updating their knowledge. For example, participatory tools were used for identifying the most appropriate organic manures which are economical and locally available, based on certain parameters. Participants were asked to rank the various types of manure. This exercise revealed that the farmyard manure which is easily available in the village is good for soil health, but does not supply adequate plant nutrients and scored 41. The locally prepared liquid bio-fertilizers like Vermiwash, Panchagavya, Jeevamrutham etc., were found to score highest with 91, owing to multiple benefits. Interestingly,  inorganic fertilizers, with its potential to supply plant nutrients in large quantity, scored the least with 19. The low score was owing to the fact that they are expensive, locally not available, not eco friendly and do not help in improving soil health.

Overall, 205 extension staff from 12 divisions and 46 mandals, who included the top level agriculture extension personnel, as well as, the grass root level extension staff in the district, were trained on local organic farming methods.

Spreading Knowledge

The trained  extension staff took active part in disseminating this knowledge on organic farming among the farmers of the district. And among the organic technologies shared, vermiwash is one technology, which fully caught the attention of the farmers.

This initiative of strengthening the knowledge of agriculture extension staff in the district has made the institution as the Central Knowledge Hub for biodiversity based organic agriculture. It is also attracting the attention of farmers from other districts.

Vara Prasad Chittem
Scientist-Agricultural Extension
DDS Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Zaheerabad,
Medak, Telangana
E-mail: varachittem@gmail.com