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Ecotechnology

About the Programme

The JRD Tata Ecotechnology Centre was established in 1996 with the support of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai. The centre is dedicated to the memory of the renowned industrialist JRD Tata. The programme demonstrates innovative methods and models for translating Sustainable Development in agriculture and the environment for the benefit of the rural poor. The ‘Ecotechnology’ programme has been developed with Ecology, Economy, Equity (gender and social), Employment and Energy as guiding principles for the development, demystification and diffusion of technologies.

The programme works with a range of technologies, practises and methodologies to promote sustainable rural livelihoods.   The Centre continues to build on its comparative advantage of interdisciplinary research and development at the interface of ‘Science-Technology-Society’. We focus on contemporary challenges in sustainable agriculture, changing climate and agroecological services to support sustainable food systems.

The mission is to make smallholder agriculture competitive for men and women producers by developing appropriate, innovative eco-technologies for sustainable livelihoods. Keeping this mission, the centre aims to create and disseminate new knowledge, practises and technologies for sustainable food systems, reaching 15,000 resource-poor rural women and men on over 10,000 ha by 2025. The strategic objectives of the centre are to:

  1. Develop and promote technologies for sustainable and resilient food production systems.
  2. Pilot and promote user-friendly eco-technologies and tools for sustainable management of water and soil health in the changing climate and
  3. Nurture and support institutional innovations to enhance small-holder competitiveness, improve efficiency, and empower communities

GEOGRAPHICAL AREA: The Centre adopts an agroecosystem approach and develops models for coastal, arid and semi-arid plains and mountain agroecosystems.

APPROACH

The Ecotechnology programme is engaged in developmental research adopting transdisciplinary and gender-responsive frameworks. It strives to broaden and deepen the understanding of the science-society interface by establishing appropriate social processes.  The key learnings from the field level are synthesised for evidence-based policy influence at local to global levels including the SDGs and INDCs. In this backdrop, the centre is placing great emphasis on partnerships and alliances with relevant government agencies and other authorities. The three thematic areas are

  1. Sustainable and resilient food systems and livelihoods.
  2. Augmenting water resources and demand management and
  3. Restoring soil health for climate-resilient agriculture.

What We Do

The centre promotes Eco-technologies to concurrently reduce poverty and improve the natural resource base. The main pathways are enhancing agricultural productivity and innovations in food systems and conserving natural resources embedding climate resilience and collective actions at the field level. The interventions to enhance agricultural production and augment natural resources are complementing each other in addressing the issues of livelihoods and natural resource use. In the process, it strives to address the issues related to barriers in technology adoption, enhance the asset endowments and improve the market access.

Theme 1. Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems and Livelihoods: This strategic area focuses on: Improving productivity, diversification and integration at the systems level by working on the models to enhance pollination services, restoring fallow lands and mainstreaming nutrition-sensitive farming systems; improve the uptake of climate information services to reduce the adaptive risks; and building small producers inclusive value, nurturing ecological skills for transforming sustainable agriculture through technology-enabled learning and facilitating sustainable farmer collectives. In the process, it explores the broader research questions namely (i) the processes and models in the demystification of technologies and nurturing innovations, (ii) understanding the key strategies and processes involved in attaining self-autonomy and sustaining the gains among producer collectives for sustainable development, (iii) role of rural institutions in reducing gaps in technology adoption and economic opportunities and (iv) socio-economic and gender factors  shaping the technology adoption process among small producers in the changing context.

Theme 2) Augmenting Water Resources and Demand Management: This thematic area is striving to develop and test scientific tools for water budgeting and water actions adopting the Composite Water Resources Management approach while keeping the climate change perspective. Besides, it is taking efforts to upscale the plan by adopting web-based tools at the scale of administrative and natural resources scale linking with available climate finance measures. It aims to pilot context-based resilient models, otherwise called Nature-based Solutions such as cascading of tanks, river rejuvenation, the greening of hillocks, restoration of fallow lands – agro-forestry and Silvi pasture models, honey parks with locally suitable tree species, coastal shelter belts, afforestation models along with soil and land management measures. At the overall level, it is focussing on the key research area namely how the water budgeting approach can be operationalised at the different scales? And how adaptation measures can be promoted at the systems level starting from farm, watersheds and sub-basin levels as Climate Resilient Development models.

Theme 3. Restoring Soil Health and Fertility Status: Under this theme, the key focus areas are developing simple soil health testing kits, piloting technologies to increase the soil carbon sequestration, mainstreaming the use of biological inputs and studying the socio-economical and technical viability of technology adoption and innovation. The important research questions planned to study are improving the soil organic carbon under smallholder farming systems, processes and methods involved in developing microbial consortium products to address the multiple functions, methodology for developing and standardizing the soil biological and visual indices for soil health measurements and ​developing a model to practice micro-biome approach for effective disease control and nutrient cycles.

Where We Work

The centre has been involved in developing models for different agro-ecosystems such as coastal, arid, semi-arid and hills. The centre is directly involved in developing models in the regions of Illupur, Pudukottai dt (arid), Mailam, Villupuram dt and kannivadi, Dinidigul dt (Semi-arid), Mannadipet commune in Puducherry (Coastal) and Jeypore in Koraput dt of Odisha (hilly).

Recently, the centre initiated its work in Cuttack and Ganjam districts of Odisha and Sibsagar and Golaghat districts of Assam on Climate Resilience as well as Nagappatinam and Ramanthapuram districts in Tamil Nadu on Coastal agriculture.

Apart from the above, it is working in partnership with regional centres such as CAbC, Wayanad and Kollihills in Namakkal dt of Tamil Nadu by extending necessary technical support in promoting Biodiversity based livelihoods and Wardha region in Maharashtra on promoting good plant health management systems.

Key Achievements

The program is working with a range of technologies, practices and methodologies to promote sustainable rural livelihoods. The salient models are;

Seed Villages  – Demonstrated a model to promote a social contract between seed growers and with seed industry through seed villages by how small farmers can benefit as well as on how to add value to the time and labour of rural women agriculture labourers by improving their skills. Here decentralized production of quality seeds was promoted in identified clusters as ‘seed villages’ backed up with capacity building on production, processing, storage and marketing in conformity with Indian seed laws and regulations. Smallholders were trained in the hybrid seed production in ten different vegetables and 2376 women and 236 men farmers were trained in seed production technologies and linked with three main seed companies.

Integrated Farming System Models for Coastal Agro-Ecosystem: Crop diversification, integration and recycling of resources were promoted in the paddy mono-cropped region with the introduction of livestock, vegetables, pulses and aquaculture as allied enterprises with paddy, adopted to demonstrate  coastal areas, Water use efficiency, soil conservation, crop diversification and disaster management. 800 farmers adopted the concept in different levels of diversification to improve resource use efficiency, reduce external inputs, and generate additional employment and farm income.

Eco-Enterprises Development: Through demystification of technologies, eco-entrepreneurship was promoted among rural women by enhancing their technical, managerial and marketing capacity to mobilize and organize themselves as entrepreneurs and to produce environmentally friendly products and services for Sustainable Development. Under this theme,  technologies for 15 different biological inputs were demystified and women members were trained to develop into eco-enterprises. The enterprises were managed by a group of women members and this initiative helps in improving their human, economic, social and physical asset levels.

ICT Enabled Functional Literacy for Livelihoods: The Community Learning Centre approach with learner-centric principles adopted by the programme to promote functional literacy among women and men farmers are recognised as a best practice by UNESCO. Over 1000 women and men have become functional literates and applying the new skills to improve their livelihoods.

Technologies for Sustainable Agriculture: Promoted integrated crop management technologies such as the use of quality seeds, biofertilizers and biopesticides, composting of crop residues, use of micronutrients, soil test-based chemical inputs application, Economic Threshold Level based pest management strategies etc to improve the productivity of paddy, banana and vegetables, and rainfed crops like pulses, cotton, maize, more than 9500 ha of agriculture land has been enhanced, over 4400 farmers including 45% women farmers have been adopting sustainable agriculture practices and 310 hectares were converted into organic farming in coffee-based multi-tier cropping.

Bio-Industrial Watersheds: The Centre has scaled up the bio-village approach at the micro-watershed level through the concept of Bio-industrial watersheds in five major soil regions of India. It is demonstrated that the techniques of natural resources management on a watershed scale by constructing 108 water harvesting and conservation structures covering 675 Ha of land. Alongside, it created an impact among 2684 smallholders by increasing their income by 10-30%. An integrated farming model was developed in 23 farm ponds and an agroforestry plantation model was established in 195 Ha. Value chains were built for fresh milk, vegetables and pulses and diverse product lines were promoted.

Groundwater Augmentation and Recharging Models: Evolved methodology and demonstrated technologies for recharging groundwater and deepening the agriculture open wells for small-scale irrigation in the rainfed region, so far more than 100 open wells were renovated and the system is institutionalised at the community level.

  Plant Clinics: Tablet-mediated extension system conducted in a common location at a village twice in a month for the small and marginal farmers by trained plant doctors, who are agricultural extension officers and progressive farmers, to diagnose pests and diseases of the affected crops and provide appropriate recommendations. MSSRF currently runs 31 plant Clinics covering 155 villages in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Assam and Odisha. This timely diagnosis and advisories helped the farmers in reducing input costs by 55–65 per cent and enhancing productivity by 12–15 per cent with a net gain in income ranging from 12.5 to 16 per cent

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Food waste is a waste of natural resources

"Food waste is also a waste of natural resources like land and water. To a great extent, food losses and waste are symbolic of the inefficiencies of our food systems. In a world of limited resources and with hungry people, food losses and waste are unacceptable not only from an ethical point of view, but also from an "economic" point of view".

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