|Keywords:||Policies/Programmes; India; Netherlands; Participatory approaches; Technology transfer; Human resources.|
|Correct citation:||Siva Prasad, K. and Pakki Reddy, G., (1999) "Capacity Building in the Andhra Pradesh Netherlands Biotechnology Programme." Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No. 39, p. 6-9.|
Priorities identified and progress made
To bring together all the participating stakeholders and to prioritize the specific problem areas in dryland agriculture, a priority setting workshop was organized before the start of the programme. This workshop lead to the formulation of several fields of priority:
|•||agro-forestry, tree crops, horticulture and sericulture;|
|•||food grains and pulses;|
|•||animal production and health.|
An innovative approach to capacity building
Besides problem solving, these projects also contribute to capacity building among different stakeholders. One of the important objectives of the APNL biotechnology programme is to strengthen the capacities of local organizations in Andhra Pradesh to develop and transfer biotechnologies and to conduct analysis in the field of technology assessment. This objective emphasizes the desire to rely primarily on local resources and adapted technologies rather than simply to adopt technologies from industrialized countries.
Capacity building in technology assessment, development and transfer takes place in a number of different ways and at different stages. Technology assessment and prioritization of technological requirements by end-users, in this case farmers, is an important element in this process. A multi-disciplinary team consisting of natural scientists, social scientists, extension workers, administrators, and NGO representatives worked together with the farmers of ten selected villages to analyse production constraints and to identify biotechnological options to overcome these limitations. A number of tools available under participatory rural appraisal (PRA) were used in this exercise. These consultations helped in identifying specific areas for intervention. The process also helped farmers to build up confidence in systematically assessing their problems and in prioritizing the possible solutions. This consultation process continues within the programme. In fact, the end-users’ involvement is increasing; they have already started participating in the execution of a number of research projects by supporting the scientists in selecting the elite planting material, and conducting field trials and front-line demonstrations.
One of the positive achievements of the programme seems to be that a number of local youth and women are attracted to these projects, groups that are often difficult to reach and involve. In this case, the projects seem to be attracting these groups through the NGOs’ transfer of technologies for local problems and the creation of new employment opportunities.
Many women’s groups are involved in the preparation of vermicompost and its application, for instance, while a large number of youths are being trained in the production of tissue-cultured plants, biofertilizers that use local strains of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and biological pesticides. It is hoped that their experience will encourage these groups to establish small enterprises that can supply environmentally friendly, low-cost agricultural inputs, establishing a sustainable agricultural system.
|Topics of projects supported by the APNL biotechnology
Animal health and production
Biopesticides and biofertilizers
Institutional capacity building
The programme’s other form of capacity building is directed towards the institutional level. Firstly, for extension agencies, capacities are built through human resources support, training in research experiments, front line demonstrations, and exposure visits. Secondly, for research organizations, capacity building mostly takes place in the form of support for equipment, research consumables, and the development and training of human resources. The expertise for training comes from within India, from advanced scientific organizations. So far, it has not been necessary to hire external expertise or make use of foreign institutional sponsoring.
The programme’s institutional capacity building begins with the choice of the appropriate research organizations. In India, research institutions are designated to be specialized in research on particular crops or species. Therefore, within the APNL biotechnology programme cooperation is sought only with institutions that are working on crops and species relevant to rainfed agriculture.
The programme also ensures that agencies reach a certain standard in infrastructure and scientific talent. A researcher who has demonstrated skills and commitment in addressing a particular problem is identified as the leader of a project. While his or her own remuneration is taken care of by the parent organization, the programme provides the necessary equipment and research consumables to carry out the project. Furthermore, costs for research associations, technicians and skilled labour are borne by the programme. The project staff are recruited among scientists who have recently graduated from university. During the project period, these young scientists gain experience under the guidance of the project leader, and also benefit from seminars, workshops, and short-term training courses that are offered to them. Most of the project staff simultaneously pursue their studies to obtain PhDs and post-doctoral certificates.
An important aim of capacity building in this programme is to increase sensitivity among young researchers towards problem solving strategies that are beneficial to the end-users of the technologies developed. This awareness is stimulated by their interaction with farmers on a continuous basis.
There is also an upgrade of skills among the project leaders, for instance in using new scientific equipment, computers, the internet, and opportunities for training and exposure visits. Apart from scientific training the project leaders also acquire managerial skills, as they are responsible for day-to-day management of the project. Furthermore, they are trained in the principles of participatory technology development (PTD). This interaction with farmers by field visits will be stimulated to enhance the project leaders’ capability in transferring technology from lab to land.
At present, there are about 40 project leaders and 100 project staff engaged in different projects supported by the APNL biotechnology programme. The numbers are likely to increase to 50 and 145 respectively by end of 1999.
Linkages with other programmes
The APNL biotechnology programme cooperates with institutions both within and outside the country that pursue the objectives of promoting participatory approaches and biotechnology in development programmes. For instance, within India, the programme receives an input on its PTD training from institutions such as Agriculture, Man and Ecology (AME); National Institute of Agriculture Extension Management (MANAGE); National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD); M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF). Furthermore, joint research projects are carried out with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and various universities. At the international level, the programme has linkages with the other three country programmes supported by the Netherlands’ government in Colombia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
As part of its efforts to strengthen multilateral cooperation, the programme has already facilitated a training programme on tissue culture technology for four Kenyan researchers. This collaboration between researchers from developing countries may often be more appropriate for capacity building adapted to local needs. Researchers can learn from the problems encountered in another developing country, and apply the same technologies to solve them in their own. The techniques will often be more applicable to their own situation than those learned in an industrialized country, where the same circumstances cannot be found.
In addition, the APNL biotechnology programme also hosted an international workshop on biosafety and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues involving participants from Colombia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands. Besides these initiatives the programme has profited from links with international institutions such as the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, and the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), The Hague. Both institutions contributed to the programme’s capacity building activities, for instance in project management and biotechnology policy.
Limitations and future challenges
The major limitation that the programme faces is the time lag between project identification and product delivery. In the IBU approach the consultation process is fairly long. It takes at least one year to conceive a project and start executing it. The gestation period between project initiation and technology availability is even longer, ranging from three to five years. The challenge, therefore, is to keep the end-users’ interest during this lengthy process. This objective is addressed by combining projects that can benefit the farmer in the short run with those that will be beneficial only after a longer period. Belonging to the first category are projects on vermicompost, biofertilizers, botanical pesticides, biocontrol agents, tissue culture and animal vaccines. Projects on transgenic crops, however, will take more than five years before concrete results are visible and fall into the second category. In this case, the interest of the farmer is also ensured through interactions with scientists at regular intervals, for instance by selecting elite material for experiments.
The other challenge the programme faces is the attitude towards science. Particularly scientists who deal with advanced biotechnologies have in the past been reluctant to spend time in the field with the farmers because of the widespread prejudice that decent science has to take place exclusively in a laboratory.
Over the years, this attitude has changed thanks to the role played by the secretariat of the programme. The secretariat has used its expertise to sensitize the scientists to the significance of PTD methods and has provided field orientation to the scientists in a number of training programmes and workshops. The scientists have gradually started to appreciate the value of such field exposure and have begun to incorporate the inputs they receive from the farmers into their research agendas.
The perception of ‘real scientists’ being laboratory-bound is also shared by many farmers; they might have to change their apprehension too if both sides want to work together in a productive way.
In the initial stages another constraint experienced by the programme was a reluctance among research managers to encourage project proposals submitted from biotechnologists. This was mainly because the managers, who were normally senior scientists, had no confidence in the potential of newly emerging biotechnologies. However, while there are still certain unresolved questions – larger issues pertaining to biosafety and risk assessment, IPR and patenting procedures – they are no longer immediate impediments. These questions are addressed at the national level and there are designated agencies engaged in developing appropriate procedures and systems.
K. Siva Prasad and G. Pakki Reddy
Biotechnology Unit, Institute of Public Enterprise, Osmania University
Campus, Hyderabad-500 007, India. Phone (+91) 40 701 70 18;
Fax (+91) 40 701 81 48; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Broerse, J.E.W. and Bunders, J.F.G. (1991), "The potential of biotechnology for small-scale agriculture." In: Bunders, J.F.G. and Broerse, J.E.W. (eds.), Appropriate biotechnology in small-scale agriculture: How to reorient research and development. Wallingford, UK: CAB International, pp. 25-69.
Pakki Reddy, G., Gijsbers, G.W. and Kumar Sharma, N. (1994), Biotechnology for Dryland Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh: Assessing needs and opportunities. Hyderabad, India: IPE.
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