24 Jan 2014

25 Years in Harnessing Scientist-Farmer-Policy Maker Synergy

M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF)
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is a non-profit research organization and was established in 1988. The Foundation thus enters its twenty-fifth anniversary this year.  From a small beginning, MSSSRF has grown into a nationally and internationally recognized institution with its own research and training infrastructure at Chennai, Koraput in OdishaKalpetta in KeralaKaveripoompattinam in Tamil Nadu andPuducherry
A laboratory-cum-training centre is coming up at Chidambaram for the coastal research programme. In addition to the well developed regional centres in Koraput andKalpetta, a third major research and training hub is being established in Vidarbha, a region suffering from serious agrarian distress.
MSSRF has been instituted as a model of a translational research centre devoted to converting scientific discoveries into field applications. This calls for research at two ends of the spectrum: participatory research with farming families, on the one hand, and policy research designed to achieve synergy between grass-roots experience and public policy, on the other.   The focus of  MSSRF has all along been developing and following a pro-nature, pro-poor, pro-women and pro-sustainable on-farm and non-farm livelihoods through appropriate eco-technology and knowledge empowerment.
            It carries out research and development in the following six major thematic areas:
Coastal Systems Research - Involves restoration of mangrove forests, alternative livelihood for fishing community, etc.
Biodiversity - Involves documenting endangered and medicinal plants, providing necessary training to village community to maintain biodiversity register, conserving genes and seeds through ex-situ community based gene bank, and in-situ on-farm conservation etc.
Biotechnology - Involves developing salt and drought tolerant transgenic rice varieties, testing availability of oil content in different biofuel crops / plants, lichens diversity, etc.
Ecotechnology - Involves setting up bio-villages. Bio-village paradigm involves sustainable management of natural resources and developing sustainable on-farm and non-farm livelihoods as eco-enterprises managed by self-help groups.
Food Security – MSSRF is engaged in the development of methodologies for promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture. One approach has been to improve the productivity of small-farm agriculture, which is the backbone of the livelihood security system of a large population of the country. To maintain the nutrition dimension in agriculture, a programme termed Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) is being introduced in KoraputKolli Hills, Wayanad and Vidarbha where there is a high burden of malnutrition. MSSRF programme on food security has two major elements: 
Community Based Interventions and Research. The former has focused on promoting household food security, among the socially and economically deprived sections in society, through various interventions. The latter, the research part, has concentrated on developing research reports that provide a macro perspective of the country’s food security concerns.
Information, Education and Communication - Involves addressing the issues related to sustainable development using different information communication technology tools for knowledge empowerment of the resource-poor, largely illiterate and unskilled rural women and men.
MSSRF’s approach to poverty alleviation has been asset building, particularly imparting new skills and knowledge and promoting community organizations. Whatever help it has been able to render to rural and tribal families is because of its ability to integrate knowledge from frontier areas of science like biotechnogy, with field level management structures like bio-village council and self help groups providing micro-credit  to initiate micro-enterprises.

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