mahendra-dev_03In the lead up to the 2016 Science Forum, we have asked Steering Committee (SC) members and speakers to answer a few questions related to the Forum’s focus on agricultural research pathways to inclusive rural development.

Below are the responses from S. Mahendra Dev, speaker on Day 2 of the Forum. Mahendra is Director and Vice Chancellor of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai, India.

Q. Can you tell us briefly about yourself and your involvement in agricultural research?

I am presently Director and Vice Chancellor of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) in Mumbai, India and have served in this position since 2010. Prior to this, I was Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, Ministry of Agriculture from 2008 to 2010, where I was fixing Minimum Support Prices for 24 crops based on existing methodologies. These are price incentives for farmers. I received my Ph.D. from the Delhi School of Economics and did postdoctoral research on agriculture at Yale University. My main areas of interest are development economics, agricultural economics and rural development. My major work is on India, South Asia, and other Asian countries. I have more than 100 research publications in national and international journals in the areas of agricultural development, poverty and public policy, food security, employment guarantee schemes, social security, farm and nonfarm employment. I have written and/or edited 12 books. Oxford University Press has recently published my book on “Inclusive Growth in India: Agriculture, Poverty, and Human Development.” I am presently member of the Board of Trustees of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, D.C. Basically I have done research on agricultural development, agricultural policies and poverty. I am involved in policy making on agriculture in India.

The objective of the 2016 Science Forum is to rethink the pathways for agricultural research to stimulate inclusive development of rural economies in an era of climate change. The Forum will marshal evidence and build on lessons learned to date, to suggest an updated list of priority research areas and approaches which involve more strategic and inclusive engagement with partners.

Q. What are the most significant ways that developing countries can achieve greater rural prosperity? What does this prosperity look like?

Structural transformation in the economy can lead to rural prosperity. Within agriculture, we should move towards non-cereals like pulses, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables and to allied activities like livestock, poultry and fisheries. Appropriate policies on agriculture relating to rural infrastructure, price incentives to farmers, research and extension and institutions are important for agricultural transformation. Technology can play an important role in transforming agriculture. Similarly agricultural market reforms, water management are equally important. A two pronged strategy of improving productivity along with diversification and risk preventing and coping mechanisms is needed. Risks are increasing in agriculture and rural areas due to price volatility and climate change. Investment in human capital like health and education will help in rural transformation. Studies show that countries lose 2 to 3% of GDP due to malnutrition. Similarly one dollar investment in improving child and maternal nutrition can give returns of $20 to $30.

Rural non-farm sector should be developed because agricultural incomes are not sufficient to reduce poverty in rural areas. Macro policies are equally important for agricultural and rural transformation. Agricultural scientists and economists look at only agricultural policies ignoring the impact of macroeconomic policies. Sometimes the solution for agriculture may lie in non-agriculture. Development of manufacturing and services can relieve pressure on employment in agriculture and can lead to more productive employment.

Q. What are some agricultural research pathways that have really contributed to greater rural prosperity?  How did they achieve this?

Some of the East and South East Asian countries have achieved agricultural transformation and rural prosperity. For example, the experience of China shows that agricultural-led growth and development of rural manufacturing led to rural transformation. Policies and processes like technological breakthroughs, timely access to knowledge and inputs, intensified management, farmers’ integration into the market (credit, marketing, farmers’ coordination, risk management), conservation and management of the natural resource base (land, water, biodiversity), minimizing adverse effects on soils and deforestation, investments in public goods (research and extension, roads, poverty and communications) policy and regulatory framework on GMOs, resilience in withstanding natural calamities and climate change (early warning systems, adaptation of farming and infrastructures) have helped transform Chinese agriculture. More fundamental institutional and policy reforms in agriculture and transformation of industry helped agricultural total factor productivity growth in China. Manufacture growth absorbed labor and reduced employment in agriculture. Labor productivity in agriculture increased.

Q. What does agricultural research need to do differently so it will contribute to rural prosperity in an era of climate change? What does climate change mean for the research pathways we follow?

Green revolution helped Asian agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s. We should extend green revolution to African agriculture. But, we should go beyond green revolution and have climate resilient agriculture because of several risks. There is a need for strategies in the short and long term for mitigating the adverse effects of climate change like droughts and floods. It is clear that better and efficient management of water resources is necessary to achieve “more crops per drop.” We need a different approach for rain-fed areas. First, there is a need for diversified cropping systems in view of climate related risks. For example, cultivation of pulses can be an important strategy for countries like India for climate resilient agriculture. Pulses are legumes which improve soil fertility. Thus, diversification to pulse cultivation can lead to a win-win situation in terms of attaining self-sufficiency and raising soil fertility. Second one is risk mitigation or coping mechanisms have to be introduced. For example, crop insurance can be used as one of the strategies for climate resilient agriculture. GBwhatsapp Apk: Whatsapp is one of the best Whatsapp Mod App for Android devices, which you can install on your Android device. GBWhatsapp apk Latest Version 2017. Download Latest GB Whatsapp for Use 2 Whatsapp in One Mobile. The third issue relates to the role of research and extension system in promoting climate resilient agriculture. Research leads to development of climate resilient technologies and the extension system can promote them among farmers. Technologies such as on-farm water harvesting in ponds, supplemental irrigation, introduction of early maturing drought tolerant varieties, paddy varieties tolerant to sub-mergence in flood prone areas, improved drainage in water logged areas, recharging techniques for tube wells, site specific nutrient management and management of sodic soils, mulching, use of zero tilling etc. would be useful. Much more research and extension is needed to have effective climate resilient agriculture particularly in the current environment of droughts and climate risks.

Similarly, in order to have resilience, development of rural non-farm sector will increase incomes of farmers, agricultural laborers and rural non-farm workers.

Q. What is your expectation for the Forum? What do you want to take home from Addis Ababa and the people you meet there?

I have high expectations on the outcomes of the forum. Interaction with multi-disciplinary stakeholders like academics, private sector, NGOs, national agricultural research systems, governments will help in better outcomes in their respective countries. This is also the right time to focus on pathways between agricultural research, rural prosperity and poverty reduction particularly in the context of sustainable development goals. I am also expecting the Forum will discuss issues relating to hunger and malnutrition as SDGs have ambitious target of Zero hunger and malnutrition by 2030.

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