Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Naomi's impressions of Sust Agr and ICTs

I spent two weeks in Chennai (city of 6 million in S. India) to visit the hub for the Swaminathan Foundation, but spent the majority of my time at Kolli Hills (Central Tamil Nadu, a remote ½ wooded, ½ agriculture area, dominated by Maliyali schedule tribe) with my graduate student Suraya Hudson (co-supervised by Mary Beckie).

It was astounding to me the level of involvement the Swaminathan Foundation has with ICTs on development efforts.  They use video conferencing, SMS, bulletin boards, email, and are even piloting a communication system to warn Sri Lankan and India fishermen when they are “trespassing” into each other’s off shore boundary for fishing rights.

Particularly notable is their more holistic approach to addressing sustainable agriculture (truly to sustain people and the planet), address malnutrition, and poverty.  There are “Village Resource Centres” (VRCs) in various regions of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Orissa (Indian states) and each of them covers a “Block”.  These VRCs oversee “Village Knowledge Centres” in their block (there may be 4-6 covered by each VRC) and there is a very organized way for on-the ground needs at the knowledge centres to be communicated back to the Resource Centres, which are then communicated back to “Cluster Leads” (at state level) in each Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Orissa.   

ICTs and face-to-face gatherings are used to teach the following:

  • Training and drudgery agri-machines
  • Promotion of under utilized native crops
  • Organizing health camps for women
  • Career guidance programming
  • Eye screening test for children
  •  Livestock management training
  •  Exposure visits
  • Tree plantation
  • Soil Testing camps
  • Forming children science camps
  • Phone-in program for livestock management and agricultural practices
  • Deepening the village pond
  • Promotion of on- and off- farm enterprises
  • Demo plot for vermicomposting in farmer’s fields
  • Promotion of nutritional gardens

It was very impressive to see what the Swaminathan organization has taken on, and the dedication of their staff.


  1. Thanks for these comments, Naomi. Can you tell us a bit more about how the knowledge is shared between experts and farmers? Is there any provision for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing or is it more expert driven in terms of the flow of knowledge?

  2. Be interested to learn the technology for warning trespassing Fishermen; if it is GSM/WCDMA would the signal reach out that far in to sea? How are they monitoring, is it tracking the GSM/WCDMA signal or other means? How do the two nations plan on managing the databases; is it P2P, B2B, or G2G?