Now A Virtual Varsity For Drought-affected Farmers

Hyderabad: | Updated: Feb 28 2003, 05:30am hrs
As part of their extension services called From Knowhow To Do How, the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (Icrisat) and the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) have proposed to jointly develop a virtual university for the benefit of farmers using IT tools. The virtual university, to be called Semi-Arid Tropics Virtual University (SAT-VU), is the first of its kind in the country to focus on drought. Eminent scientist Prof MS Swaminathan is working out the plan of action for SAT-VU which is likely to be launched on June 5 on the occasion of World Environment Day after a taskforce of Icrisat endorses the concept.

Addressing a press conference, Prof Swaminathan said, To mitigate the effects of drought, there is an urgent need for sustained information which can be obtained from modern science and reach the rural farmers. The three important factors necessary for developing the VU are the 3Ms - meteorology, management and marketing, he said.

In this regard, a round-table conference was held at Icrisat with participation of national bodies like Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), open universities from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

The VU is expected to draw expertise from the Commonwealth of Learning, the International Water Management Institute. Lessons from India will also be implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa, Prof Swaminathan said.

The university will work with the drought action programmes in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, he added.

Describing the university, Icrisat director general Dr William Dar said the pilot project at Adakkal village in Andhra Pradesh is the model for this university.

The village is empowered to cope with drought through open-distance learning with information on livestock management under inadequacy of water available and has developed off-farm knowledge and skills for viable livelihood.

Information technology, print and electronic media will be utilised for content delivery, similar to the hub and spoke model of V-SAT technology. The university will be managed through strategic partnerships and networking with various organisations and universities, he said.

For resource generation and mobilisation, a seed fund of $100,000 will be created at Icrisat with an initial investment of $10,000 from each of the partners in the coalition, Dr Dar added.