Each week on this blog, we will meet with ILRI staff members, partners and projects in Asia to learn about their work, challenges and the opportunities they face to leverage livestock knowledge in Asia.
Based in New Delhi, India, but originally from the south-western coastal state of Kerala – Padmakumar, or as he simply prefers – Padma, takes a moment to discuss the ‘Enhancing Livelihoods through Knowledge Systems’ (ELKS) programme that he leads.
ILRI Asia: With the ELKS project being the first time ILRI is partnering with the Tata Trust, can you shed some light on its role in India?
The Sir Ratan Tata Trust is one of the oldest philanthropic institutions in India, and has without a doubt, played a vital pioneering role in changing traditional attitudes towards charity, whilst also introducing the concept of philanthropy. The Trust, along with it’s other allied trusts – such as the Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust – has been, and continues to be major supporters of efforts to improve education, health, arts and culture, governance and significantly for ILRI – rural livelihoods in India.
Under the Trust’s rural livelihoods portfolio, support is provided to a range of non-government organisations (NGOs) whose focus is on implementing livestock based livelihood projects throughout India. Generally speaking however, the Trust’s initiatives with these NGOs have required professional support in their planning and implementation, thus providing the premise for the partnership between the Tata-Trust and ILRI. Under the partnership, ILRI in consultation with various partners provides assistance in identifying the relevant policy, technical or institutional gaps, whilst also providing on-the-ground support in the actual implementation of the projects.
ILRI Asia: What does 2012 have in store for you?
With the three-year program commenced in 2011, this year I will be focused on overseeing the actual implementation of the project’s activities, whereas 2011 was more a year of preparation, or shall we say – an ‘explorative’ phase. If all goes to plan this year, next year will see us focus on policy dialogue to scale up our research outputs.
ILRI Asia: Based on your extensive experience in the agricultural-research sector in India, what do you see as being the major breakthroughs in recent times, and also – where do you see the sector heading?
From the perspective of the livestock sector, I believe that there have been two key breakthroughs in India over the last four decades, with the first being the introduction of ‘cross breeding’. Second would be ‘marketing’, initiated by the Operation Flood programme in 1970. This program ultimately enabled India’s move towards becoming the largest producer of milk in the world.
In my opinion, there is an emerging tendency here among researchers to focus more on the ‘soft’ part of research, which although is important, should not be at the cost of the ‘hard’ part or not by replacing it. Especially so in India where livestock only contributes to a relatively low percentile (20%) of the income basket of the poor, we should focus more on research that provides significant improvement of the livestock income of the poor (20 to 40%?), otherwise our time will be wasted with inefficient programmes that make comparatively insignificant impacts.
For more information on Padma, please view his ILRI Profile Page