Despite the presence of top agriculture research institutes in the country, scientific solutions developed in the lab rarely reach the small farmer. It is to bridge this knowledge gap between agricultural scientists and research institutions and small farmers that the government has recently announced two new initiatives—-Biotech-KISAN hubs and Cattle Genomics.
The Biotech-KISAN (Krishi Innovation Science Application Network) will train women farmers across 15 agro-climatic zones on new technologies and know-how available in the country and outside. The aim is to connect farmers, scientists and science institutions across the country using Biotech-KISAN hubs. It also aims to address individual problems of small farmers, providing solutions for poor soil health, unavailability of irrigation facilities and seeds and marketing infrastructure.
According to an official with Department of Biotechnology (DBT), these hubs would be used to scout for appropriate technologies developed at Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), government owned science labs, Krishi Vigyan Kendra and state agriculture universities.
“These hubs will be a glue in the existing system allowing small farmers to identify and access scientific solutions to their problems,” a DBT official, who did not want to be named, told FE. In the current fiscal, DBT, which is anchoring the Biotech-KISAN programme, is aiming to set up at least three such hubs across the country. The department has called for proposals from various institutions to set up these hubs. Subsequently, DBT plans to set up such hubs across 15 locations in the next couple of years.
Each Biotech-KISAN hub will have a small team led by a facilitator. The facilitator will connect with the farmers through visits by the team, meetings by phone and by using WhatsApp and other modern communication technology.
“It is important for scientists to work on the problems being faced by our farmers. Biotech-KISAN is a new programme that empowers farmers, especially women farmers,” science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan had stated after formally launching the programme.
Through the ‘Cattle Genomics’ programme, the government aims to improve the genetic health of the cattle population through genomic selection. “When breeding is selective, the native livestock can transform the lives of small farmers. Genomic selection will ensure high-yielding, disease-resistant, resilient livestock,” an agriculture ministry official said.
The programme also envisages development of high-density DNA chips. This will reduce the cost and time interval for future breeding programmes and productivity of indigenous cattle would be enhanced.