SATrends Issue 42                                                                                                                  May 2004

  • Knowledge and culture
  • Vert, la couleur de l'espoir.
  • Plant varieties protection in India
  • 1. Knowledge and culture

    Smallholder farmers may adopt new varieties fairly quickly, if they offer obvious benefits. But new resource management technologies take longer, much longer. Why? One interesting answer: it's because of cultural traditions and the nature of knowledge.

    Knowledge is transferred by various means, depending on the type of knowledge and on socio-cultural factors in the target community. A community will absorb knowledge in one way, and different communities will absorb the same knowledge in different ways, depending on their cultural practices and traditions.

     Researcher interacting with farmers.

    Some kinds of knowledge are explicit, ie, clearly and unambiguously codified in forms such as books or databases, so they can be disseminated relatively easily. But farming knowledge, at least the sort that is of practical value to smallholder farmers, is quite different. Much of this knowledge has been generated by farmers themselves, over generations, and is embodied in individuals and communities in implicit (not explicit) forms. Particularly in highly variable environments, planting or crop management decisions may depend not only on soil type and rainfall but also on economic factors – and even the farmer's “gut feeling”.

    Such implicit knowledge can only be learnt through practical experience – farmers learn crop management simply by being farmers, and by interacting with other more experienced farmers. Traditional top-down extension methods do not work for NRM. Instead, sociologists argue that un-codified, implicit knowledge is best disseminated through collective learning methods and learning-by-doing, which mimic traditional learning systems more closely. That is where farmer-participatory research comes in.

    ICRISAT and its partners in Africa have been promoting this approach with increasing success. Scientists, extension staff and farmers work together and learn together – first identifying the major problem, then identifying possible solutions. Researchers then assist farmers to conduct their own experiments on their own plots. The process of learning and experimenting is at least as valuable as the technology itself.

    A recent analysis has shown that our researcher-led, farmer-implemented experimentation in Malawi and Zimbabwe has provided a range of benefits. New NRM technologies are quickly identified and adopted. Farmers gain a better understanding of trials and trial results. The community becomes more responsive to new ideas, and more willing to experiment in the future. And as a result of these interactions, researchers and extension staff frequently revise their methods to make them more effective and relevant to smallholder farmers.

    For more information contact

    2. Vert, la couleur de l'espoir.

    An ICRISAT pilot farmer successfully developed a one-and-half hectare vegetable field in spite of the most difficult season.  The Ministry of Agricultural Development inaugurated it this month.

    Vert arrogant est une nouvelle couleur découverte par les téléspectateurs du Niger. En effet, en pleine saison chaude, alors que les marchés de la capitale connaissent comme chaque année une pénurie de légume, a été inauguré par un maraîcher de banlieue un champ de tomates d'un hectare et demi parfaitement réussi, chose si exceptionnelle que l'association nigérienne de promotion de l'irrigation privée (ANPIP) n'a pas hésité à y convier le ministère du développement agricole à couper le ruban devant toutes les radios et les télévisions du pays. Cet événement a fait grand bruit, le champ vert de Gamkalé (du nom du quartier périphérique de la capitale nigérienne où se trouve l'exploitation) est cité en exemple par tous.

    C'est il y a deux ans que l'ICRISAT avait choisi un maraîcher de Gamkalé comme paysan pilote afin de positionner en zone péri-urbaine un des « jardin potager africain », système qui met à la portée pécuniaire et technique des petits paysans les technologies de pointe de fertigation (irrigation et fertilisation en une même action) goutte à goutte. L'ICRISAT l'a formé à cette nouvelle technologie et choisi les variétés à cultiver. Mais ce maraîcher de Gamkalé a vite compris les opportunités offertes par ce système et a désiré installer un deuxième système, celui-ci supérieur en taille, le goutte à goutte à haute pression.

    L'ICRISAT a alors répondu positivement à cette initiative voyant là un nouveau moyen de faire avancer l'agriculture et reculer la pauvreté. En effet, la pauvreté en zone urbaine a des corollaires encore plus malheureux qu'en zone rurale. Y produire des légumes de qualité en plus grande quantité c'est lutter contre cette pauvreté et ses conséquences en rendant plus accessible aux plus démunis une alimentation plus saine.

    L'ICRISAT a aussi pu démontrer par les faits que par ses propositions technologiques les adversités d'hier deviennent les opportunités d'aujourd'hui : a été expliqué que cette « mauvaise» saison sèche offre aux cultures une meilleure protection contre les maladies, et que ce « pauvre » sol sableux permet un meilleur contrôle de la fertigation et une meilleure production maraîchère, et cela à moindre coût.

    Et le représentant de l'ICRISAT de montrer aux médias un Nouveau Sahel, heureux, producteur et compétitif ! Et croyez bien SATrends qui était témoin, ce soir-là, devant le petit écran quand les images de ce champ de Gamkalé ont été retransmises : cette couleur verte a vraiment ravi les esprits !

    Pour plus d'information contacter

    3. Plant varieties protection in India

    India is one of the first countries in the world to have passed a legislation granting rights to both breeders and farmers simultaneously under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPVFR) Act, 2001. The Act incorporates IP interests of various stakeholders including public/private sectors, communities, NGOs and farmers.  It allows four types of varieties to be registered -- new, extant, essentially derived and farmers' varieties.

    Under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, a country can decide either on a patent system for protecting plant breeders' rights over the seeds and planting material developed by them, or opt for a sui generis system. India took the second option by enacting the PPVFR Act.  

    The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (French acronym UPOV), is based in Geneva, and provides basic protection for breeder's rights and national treatment for all its breeders in the member countries.  There are currently 22 developed and 32 developing nations in UPOV, and India has applied for UPOV membership.

    Novelty, Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability are the protection criteria specified by the Indian Act, which are similar to UPOV conditions, but which prohibits registration of varieties that contain terminator technology. 

    While the Act provides exclusive rights to the breeders to produce, sell, market, distribute, and import or export the variety, certain exemptions are provided for use of variety for R&D.  Breeder's authorization is a must for repeated use of the registered variety as a parental line for commercial production.  The Act takes care of public interests by granting Compulsory License in case of abuse of rights by the breeder, at the same time protecting the breeder by determining reasonable compensation.  Violation of breeder's rights will lead to punishment. 

    Farmers are entitled to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the Act, but are not permitted to sell branded seed of a variety protected under this Act.  The other rights include benefit sharing; compensation for seed failure; exemption from payment of a legal fee, documentation fee; and protection against innocent infringement.

    The Indian Act is currently undergoing the final phase of structuring for effective implementation.  How far the Indian Government has succeeded in providing the right kind of protection to breeders and farmers will be known when the Act is actually put into force. 

    For more information contact

    4. WWF and ICRISAT

    The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), recognized by its famous Panda logo, was founded in 1961 by Sir Peter Scott as a fundraiser to protect threatened species. It is now the world's largest conservation organization, active in over 70 countries.

    With 5 million members and 4000 committed working staff members, WWF spends about US$400 million in conservation. The International Secretariat is located in Gland, Switzerland, and the current President is HE Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria.

    The mission of the organization is to stop the degradation of Earth's natural environment and to build a future where humans live in harmony with nature. WWF is active in conserving the biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

    The resources are invested in the field of Freshwater, Oceans& Costs, Forests, Species, Toxics, Climate Change, and in Global 200 – the most important bio-diversity sites.

    Over 70% of water is used in agriculture. In the last four decades, food security has been significantly achieved. Water played a major role, but with enormous costs. Human development in general and global food security in particular is affected by dry and polluted rivers, overexploited groundwater, and threatened freshwater species. Climate changes further aggravate the situation by changing the rainfall pattern.

    “Dialogue on Water, Food and Environment” was established with ten major international organizations to 'provide elements of answers to the question: how to achieve global food security without further degrading the ecosystem, the source of water'. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed with ICRISAT in May 2003 as part of the dialogue.

    Improvements in dryland agriculture have contributed to food productivity. Massive irrigation investments with expensive diversions and lifts are taking place. WWF is looking at the major investments in irrigation and critically analyzing social, economic and ecological implications. The recent proposal to lift water from the Godavari river and transport it to irrigable lands 200 km away in Andhra Pradesh, India, is being looked at. An independent cost-benefit analysis indicated that farmers might incur huge electric bills with such actions. Such analyses are important for decision makers to make wise investments.

    The partnership with ICRISAT will build a policy support project on dryland agriculture. The project will review financial and institutional support, study ecological advantage, develop policy framework, and promote sustainable technologies.

    For more information contact: