Rural Knowledge Revolution for Agrarian Prosperity and Sustainable Livelihood Security

Filed under: March 2010 |

The MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) organised the 6th Convention of the Grameen Gyan Abhiyan (GGA), previously known as Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre, on December 20-21, 2009 at the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), Pusa Road, New Delhi. This year, the focal theme of the convention was: ‘Rural Knowledge Revolution for Agrarian Prosperity and Sustainable Livelihood Security’. The convention was divided into plenary sessions and parallel group discussions.

The inaugural session commenced with a welcome address by Ajay K Parida, Executive Director, MSSRF.  Welcoming the GGA partners to the 6th Convention of the GGA, he called for further growth of its  partnership by exploring and identifying new institutions and organisations to partner with. He was followed by Basheerhamad Shadrach, Executive Director, telecentre.org Foundation. Shadrach has a long association with the GGA and he has actually seen it growing from the idea stage to its actual implementation on the ground. While sharing a retrospect on the GGA, he considered knowledge connectivity and linkages and the capacity building of the grassroots workers as the key to the success of this movement.

The next speaker was Ashis Sanyal who talked about content development and delivering appropriate services through the Common Service Centres, the Indian Government’s flagship telecentre programme. These two areas remain challenging for the programme as a whole. After him, Mihoko Tamamura, Country Director, UN-World Food Programme shared her views on in the context of the Millenium Development Goals or the MDGs.

Hari Shankar Gupta, Director, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) shed light on the importance of agriculture for a country like  India and the challenges that the farmers are facing due to emerging phenomenon like climate change and a host of other problems. The session ended with Presidential address by Prof. Swaminathan and the release of a photo book on GGA and the GGA Partners’ Directory. The photo book on GGA traces its history through photos interspersed with anecdotes contributed by Basheerhamad Shadrach, Executive Director, telecentre.org Foundation. In his address, Swaminathan reiterated the need for knowledge connectivity across rural India to help the farming and other farm based and allied communities.

The role of knowledge systems in ensuring sustainable food security for all

The inaugural session was followed by another session on ‘The Role of Knowledge Systems Sustainable Food Security for over a Billion Human Population and for a Billion Farm Animals’. The  unique aspect of this session was that it pondered over food security not only for the human population, but also for the farm animals, thus acknowledging their inter-linkages. During this session, Aruna Sundararajan, Chief Executive Officer, Community Service Centres, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS); Narayana Gowda, Project Coordinator, University of Science, GKVK; Ramesh S Agrawal, Director Programme (Retired), Prasar Bharati; L S Rathore, Advisor, National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting; Pier-Paolo Ficarelli, Knowledge Management, International Livestock Research Institute; T S Anurag, Research Scientist, Media Lab Asia, New Delhi; and Rohit Magotra, Ek Gaon Technologies addressed the audience and shared their views on knowledge management in the field of agriculture.

Content creation and capacity building

Day two at the 6th convention of the GGA started with group discussions moderated by Basheerhamad Shadrach, and Ajay Parida, respectively.


Apart from generating content and information, it is also equally important to ensure that the information/ content reaches the beneficiaries and they are able to convert them into perceivable economic benefits. The use of the information should also be incentivised, so that the farmers come forward to use them


The group discussion on content creation and capacity building brought up several issues around the

development, management and packaging of the content. The participants reiterated the need for the content to be need based; available in simple language so that it is easily comprehended by users and in  user friendly formats, so that the users don’t find any difficulty in using them; and also accessible whenever and wherever the users require them. In this context, Shadrach put forward the need for the creation of a content consortium. This concept was explored in the past too, but could not garner proactive support from the content creators and developers. The consortium approach is also necessary for containing the ‘reinventing the wheel’ tendency among the content generators. The structure and function of the consortium are affected by a number of factors, such as variations within the sectors as well as the beneficiaries, the composition of the consortium partners, and so on.

Apart from generating content and information, it is also equally important to ensure that the information/ content reaches the beneficiaries and they are able to convert them into perceivable economic benefits. The use of the information should also be incentivised, so that the farmers come forward to use them. In this regard, the village level extension workers could be utilised to disseminate information. Therefore, Shadrach saw the need to revive the ‘task forces’ concept of Mission 2007 as ‘Content Consortium’ to take on and manage the responsibilities related to content creation. In terms of  structure, it should be multi-level so that it could address content needs at various levels.

Rural knowledge systems for agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries

This session was continued in two parts and the after lunch plenary was chaired by MS Swaminathan. It included presentations by S A Patil, Chairman, Karnataka Krishi Mission, Government of Karnataka; M Moni, Deputy Director General, Agricultural Informatics Division; S  Ayyappan, Deputy Director General (Fisheries), Indian Council of Agricultural Research; Subhi Quraishi, CEO, ZMQ Software Systems, India; A K Sikka, Technical Expert (Watershed Development), NRAA; Suman K Varma, DGM (Rural Business Unit), State Bank of India.

Swaminathan suggested that the time is ripe for GGA to advocate for one window service and information

delivery for the farmers. The presentations were followed with some interesting questions put up by the participants. One of them specifically asked how the GGA is going to address the concerns of communities other than the farming, who constitute the village population. It also brought up other issues related to content and data. Generally people focus on connectivity, but they forget about data. There are no incentives to set up data centres.

Agrarian prosperity and sustainable livelihood security through innovations

In the next session, V Prakash, Director, Central Food Technological Research Institute; T Ramasami, Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Science and Technology; K Ganesha Raj,   Deputy  Director    (Applications), Programme Manager (VRC), EOS, ISRO; Sharbendu Banerjee, Project and Business Development Manager, CABI South Asia; GC Shrotriya, Advisor of Agriculture Services IKSL and IFFCO Foundation; Surjit Behra, Pradhan, Digital Green emphasised the importance of innovations  in attaining agrarian prosperity and sustainable livelihood security.

The way forward: Grameen Gyan Abhiyan recommendations

The session was chaired by Prof. Swaminathan and included speakers, like Biraj Patnaik, Principal Adviser, Office of the Commissioners to the Supreme Court; Laxmi Shankar  Bajpai, Director, All India Radio; Vishwanathan, Director, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Embassy of Switzerland; Mahesh Uppal, Director, ComFirst; and Ravi Gupta, Executive Director, Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS).

Most of them agreed that content is primary for the success of the telecentres, but the fact is that there are very few content back up to support service delivery from the telecentres. Therefore, there is a need to forge linkages to facilitate this. As far as climate change is concerned, it is now proven that ICTs can play a vital role, especially in the context of climate literacy and training. There are a number of factors affecting the rural poor and the vagaries of climate change are the most visible on the farming community. The climate change repercussions on water and food production needs to be determined so that strategies could be planned to deal with them. The speakers noted that in line with these emergent issues, over the years, the focus of GGA has also shifted from technology to content and capacity building and it should continue to work towards achieving its objectives.

Beyond Copenhagen: building climate resilient rural societies

Since the GGA convention closely followed the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, there was a special address by Shyam Saran, Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of India on climate change.

He stated that the phenomenon of climate change is very democratic in terms of its impact; it is affecting all the countries equally all over the world. Therefore, collaboration at the international level is important to deal with it; but unfortunately, it is lacking. In order to control it, there is an emergent need to shift from fossil fuels to nuclear and other renewable and clean energy sources.

He further shared that India has come out with a national action plan on climate change that consists of a number of action lines. In the field of agriculture, it would mean adapting to changing climatic conditions, developing thermal resistant crops, and so on.

Other speakers in the valedictory session included Leena Srivastava, Executive Director, TERI; Mohan Kanda, Member, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA); Basheerhamad Shadrach and Ajay K Parida, who shared the outcomes of their respective group discussions. It concluded with a presentations on ‘The Grameen Gyan Abhiyan Network’s Contribution to ICT4D by N Ganga Vidya, Coordinator, GGA Secretariat and ‘The Contribution of  Jamsetji Tata Training School to ICT4D and the Outcome of the consultative workshop on ‘Telecentre Managers for Strengthening the Capacity of Social Entrepreneurship by  Nancy J Anabel. 

Telecentre Managers for Strengthening the Capacity of Social Entrepreneurship: a Consultative Workshop

 The 6th GGA convention was preceded by a consultative workshop on ‘Telecentre Managers for Strengthening the Capacity of Social Entrepreneurship’. In true MSSRF tradition, the workshop was conducted in a very participatory way with the telecentre operators, managers and other stakeholders participating very actively in all the deliberations.

After an informal introduction, the participants were divided into three groups that represented the existing telecentre models, such as the ‘Community’ model, which is also the donor supported model; the ‘part donor supported and part business’ model and the purely ‘Business’ model, which seeks to make a profit out of the telecentre enterprise to sustain the telecentre and the people taking it up as a livelihood.

The participants were asked to deliberate upon the existing practices under the three models around five parameters, like location, infrastructure, services offered, indicative service fee/ charges and innovative practices. It revealed that there was a lot of overlap in terms of the infrastructure available there and the services offered by the telecentres across all the models.

They identified services to be channeled through the telecentre after an intensive and participatory need assessment exercise. Another value inherent to all the models was that of ‘social enterprise’ and ‘social entrepreneurship’. All the models testified to it!

The only difference was that whereas the latter two models were charging for the services, at the ‘Community’ model telecentres, these were offered free of cost. Another interesting observation was that the community model and part donor supported and part business models were also moving towards paid services in a gradual way. They initially offered these services free of cost, but when the demand for these services stabilised within the community, they introduced minimal fee for accessing them.


An observation that came up very strongly at the ‘Business’ model group discussions, was that like anywhere in the world, the rural communities also consider some interrelation between the cost of services and their quality, i.e., the higher the price of a particular training course, the better its quality and usability


As far as innovative practices were concerned, they were pervasive throughout the models. All of them were constantly experimenting and innovating in the realms of services, content, location, technology, and so on. Moreover, majority of them were of the opinion that all the services, content and information provided through the telecentre should be charged as the people don’t attach any value to anything offered ‘free’. Once they have to pay for it, they are more likely to use it more rationally.

Another observation that came up very strongly at the ‘Business’ model group discussions, was that like anywhere in the world, the rural communities also consider some interrelation between the cost of services and their quality, i.e., the higher the price of a particular training course, the better its quality and usability.

For example, one of the participants, John Nelson from the Vadalur Knowledge Centre, shared that people will think twice when a course is offered for Rs. 400, but they will straight away go for it if it is available for Rs. 4000.

Later on, the three groups polarised into two: community vs business models. All the participants felt that the community model should also move away from donor dependency towards self sustainability. It also brought up the issue of how much ‘profit’ is fair to be extracted from the village community.

It would, in turn, determine the fee charged for every service or information offered by the telecentre. Finally, the participants decided that a gradual shift from donor dependency to sustainability is essential for the very survival of the telecentres as social enterprises.

 Juan Samuel Womens Jersey

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

About Us Advertise Email Newsletters Subscribe Careers elets Tv Contact Us

Publications eGov Magazine digitalLEARNING Magazine eHEALTH Magazine News Magazine Interviews Newsletter Archive
Events eWorld Forum World Education Summit eMaharashtra eINDIA eASiA SecureIT Healthcare Leaders' Forum
Join us on Facebook Twitter Linkedin Google+ Slideshare Vimeo YouTube

Copyright © 2013 Elets Technomedia Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved.