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Case Study - India

Work in India currently focuses on biodiversity important for food and agriculture in the drylands of Andhra Pradesh. Village level dialogues have been carried out and agreements for joint work between local farming communities and IIED have been reached. The host research organisation in Andhra Pradesh is the Deccan Development Society in tandem with the Krishi Vikas Kendra (KVK) for the Telengana region - a State government unit for R&D on natural resource management.

The National Learning Group that will ultimately use the research findings and outcomes to influence policy is in the process of being constituted.

In-country dialogues and planning have endorsed the overall objectives of the action research project. However, local partners have particularly emphasised:

  1. Expanding an alternative Public Distribution System

    The Public Distribution System, has played a key role in averting large scale famine in independent India, by purchasing surplus grain for transfer to food deficit areas in both and rural contexts. The Indian government has thus been able to distribute food at affordable prices to low income segments of the population. However, having evolved as part of market driven and irrigation centred agricultural policies, it is based on wheat and rice. The PDS values these crops over diverse crops suited to local environmental situations, and encourages monocultures. It has also led to loss in food security as area under coarse dryland cereals and associated legume intercrops.
    Women farmers involved in the IIED project have set up a decentralised community managed PDS based on coarse grains that are locally produced, stored and distributed . One resarch priority is to carry out comparative assessments of the impacts of the Government and the community run Public Distribution Systems on biodiversity, food systems and livelihoods, based on local indicators. Complementary local level and external evaluations will be carried out, to analyse the degree of integration achieved between gender equity and food security, autonomy and capacity of local groups, recovery of agricultural biodiversity and degraded lands, and sustainability in the alternative PDS.
  2. Deliberative Democracy and Food Futures

    The early phases of the IIED supported action research in India included the use of participatory methodologies to broaden democratic deliberation and decision making on the future of food systems, environment and livelihoods in Andhra Pradesh. This included policy analysis on these issues. The need for participatory assessments of development policies and their anticipated impacts on biodiversity, food systems and livelihoods was identified as a key priority by local and State level actors. The full report on this Citizen Jury, Prajateerpu is now available
  3. Strengthening Women Farmers

    A focus on strengthening the indigenous knowledge, management, capacities and rights of women farmers involved in biodiversity conservation and use in dryland environments (on farms and common property lands).
  4. Linking rural producers and urban consumers

    The Prajateerpu process and its outcomes (above) emphasised the importance of a fair access to local markets to sustain diversity and livelihoods in the dryland areas . This has led to action research that aims to understand how and under what conditions can the environment (including biodiversity), rural producers and urban consumers benefit from more localised markets. Activities so far have focussed on organisation of urban consumer groups and low external input/organic producers with the aim of promoting more direct forms of marketing between food producers and consumers.
  5. Farmer to farmer exchange and training

    In the course of this project, it became soon apparent that the different farmer and indigenous people groups had much to learn from each other on food systems, agricultural biodiversity and livelihood strategies. An unforeseen opportunity arose to facilitate an international workshop designed to allow for the direct exchange of knowledge and innovations between Indian and Peruvian project partners (view/download report in PDF format [792k]). As a result a group of small farmers from South India travelled to Peru in March 2002. During 10 days, women farmers from dryland Andhra Pradesh lived and worked with indigenous communities in the Andes, accompanied by support NGO staff and the IIED Coordinator.

Logistical arrangements to address these priority issues are now underway in AP. Organisational commitments and work plans for the next 4 to 5 years have either already been made or are now evolving.

Members of the National Level Learning Group confirmed so far include representatives from :

  • The Coordinator of India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

  • Department of Agriculture of AP

  • Ministry of Environment

  • Civil society organisations (ActionAid India)


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