Newsroom  Press releases  2003

15) Indian operations of the Virtual University launched (5th June 2003)

The India sector operations of the Virtual University for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VUSAT) was launched today with a video conference with the farmers of Parbani district of Maharashtra. The launch commemorated the World Environment Day.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the launch of the India sector operations is an achievement for all the institutions that worked in partnership to develop the concept of the Virtual University. The concept is also appropriate for implementation in the semi-arid regions of Africa.

Eminent agricultural scientist, Prof MS Swaminathan, said that the launching of this activity is particularly appropriate since the theme of this year's Environment Day is Water – 2 billion people are dying for it.

“Rural India is in urgent need of knowledge empowerment in the areas of soil and water conservation and sustainable and equitable use, and monsoon management,” Prof Swaminathan said. “VUSAT will fulfill this important need.” 

The Acting Director of the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Dr YS Ramakrishna, marked the event by talking with the farmers of Parbani district through the video link. Dr Ramakrishna is the National Coordinator for a project initiated by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) on delivering agro-meteorology information to farm communities.

The Parbani farmers gathered to share the unique strategy they developed to cope with drought with agricultural scientists.

The activities to set up the Virtual University started with a brainstorming session of the partners on 27 February 2003. The MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, the Indira Gandhi National Open University and ICRISAT are the anchors for VUSAT in India.

Principal partners are the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, the BR Ambedkar Open University and CRIDA. The Commonwealth of Learning, an intergovernmental organization promoting open and distance learning, provides technical advice.

Since the February brainstorming session, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have established their regional hubs. Rural hubs are also being established in these states.

ICRISAT and CRIDA have developed information-cum-learning material on crop, livestock and water management for dealing with drought. This material is available in English and Telugu. It will soon also be available in Marathi.

For more information, contact Dr V Balaji at v(dot)balaji(at)cgiar(dot)org.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.