SEWA and ICRISAT launch ICT-based knowledge sharing tools to boost smallholder agriculture

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Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India (16 May 2014) – The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) have joined hands to carry out Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based knowledge sharing platforms and other agricultural innovation initiatives, to improve productivity and profitability of smallholder agriculture.

The partnership was sealed today with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between SEWA and ICRISAT, prompting the launch of a series of innovative ICT platforms that aim to revitalize agricultural extension and education in rural areas and provide better access to knowledge and information by smallholder farmers.

These platforms, developed by ICRISAT, include the SEWA KSIConnect, a virtual learning exchange and knowledge transfer series; the SEWA AgED Open Courseware that promotes open online courses for enhancing skills of SEWA members; the ICRISAT Radio SEWA; and the ICRISAT Video SEWA that will provide agro-advisories on agricultural innovations developed by ICRISAT. All these will be carried out through farmers’ groups and farmer field schools established by SEWA.

“Millions of smallholder farmers worldwide could improve their yields, incomes and resilience if only they had better access to appropriate information and knowledge that helps them make informed choices about farming practices,” said Dr William Dar, ICRISAT Director General, during the agreement signing and launch of the ICT platforms.

“Working with partners and stakeholders like SEWA, ICRISAT has developed and supported many information systems that have helped smallholder farmers become more food secure and resilient,” Dr Dar added. He also appreciated the remarkable work that SEWA has been doing in bringing changes in the socio-economic status of rural women by improving their livelihoods. He announced ICRISAT’s support in scaling up the institute’s scientific solutions and innovations through SEWA’s institutional mechanism.

“With ICRISAT partnership, we are hoping to empower smallholder farmers by bringing innovative ICT tools in their hands, allowing them access to advanced scientific and technical knowledge, weather information and appropraite advisory and knowledge services” said Ms Reema Nanavathy, Director, SEWA.

In her message, SEWA President Shri Kapilaben Vankar, herself a smallholder farmer, said: “I’m sure small and marginal farmers will immensely benefit from these ICRISAT-SEWA ICT platforms. SEWA will be able to connect to a maximum number of farmers at once, provide them with useful information, and address their agriculture related issues by directly connecting them with experts. SEWA will also be able to standardize its modules on agriculture and other subjects which will allow seamless trainings and education to rural farmers. With the help of mobile battery operated pico projectors, Master Trainers in rural areas will be able to make their field trainings more interesting and effective by using multimedia.”

“Before, capacity building and knowledge transfer activities were conducted through face-to-face mass training and education – which were costly and had limited reach and follow-up opportunities. The new approach to capacity building envisions a world in which all stakeholders can easily access and share information, knowledge and skills they need — anywhere and anytime — in a cost effective manner” said by Dr Guntuku Dileepkumar, Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation Program of ICRISAT.

Dr Dar visited SEWA and its programs on 15-16 May, along with Dr Suhas Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center, and Dr Dileepkumar; and with Ms Reema Nanavathy, SEWA Director, and other SEWA executive members. Dr Dar also inaugurated the Community Learning and Business Resource Center (CLBRC) of SEWA at Nandasam village.

Under the MoU signed between ICRISAT and SEWA, areas for collaboration include: adoption of the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development approach, capacity building and training, gender research, rural livelihoods, natural resource management, village level studies and use of innovative information and communication technology platforms for improving productivity and profitability of smallholder agriculture.