Agriculture in South Asia faces the spectre of the four modern day apocalyptic horsemen of the global economic system — hunger, climate change, trade competition and knowledge exclusion. In July 2008’s LINK LOOK Andy Hall and Rasheed Sulaiman V. argued that South Asia — a region that is home to half the world’s poor — is vulnerable to these challenges because of weaknesses in current patterns of agricultural innovation capacity. They also, however, argued that many of the capacity building blocks are already in place and that a few relatively simple institutional changes could unleash powerful creative forces capable of converting these harbingers of doom — Hunger, Climate Change, Trade Competition and Knowledge Exclusion — into poverty-reducing opportunities.
How well placed is agricultural research to tackle the looming crisis in South Asia? Not very well, according to Andy and Rasheed. And this is not necessarily because South Asian countries lack scientific capacity; in fact, it’s quite the opposite in India with its highly-developed agricultural science tradition. Numerous examples point to the fact that the problem lies in — among other things — the low priority given to research on sustainable agriculture; the lack of scientific validation and support of farmers’ own innovations; and the moribund and outdated agricultural extension services.
The great paradox of South Asia is not so much that it has scientific capabilities and cannot make science count for development, but rather that it has such a rich experience of innovations in research and technology practice that its public research organisations could learn from, but don’t. Andy and Rasheed discuss what they think needs to be undertaken to tackle the looming crisis (see LINK July 2008 News Bulletin). What do you think? Please comment below.