India needs high quality manpower for rural R&D

Education, Engineering, Science, Research,

India needs high quality manpower for rural R&D

Kolkata, November 6: It is a misnomer that rural development
does not need high technology inputs. While it is true that we need to maximise
use of locally available resources in rural areas, application of new technologies
can go a long way in improving the quality of life in rural areas.

This was stated by Dr Anil K. Rajvanshi, Director of Nimbkar
Agriculture Research Institute (NARI),
Phaltan (Maharashtra), while delivering
keynote address in a session on ‘transforming India through S&T” at the ongoing
India International Science Fair (IISF) here.

High technology is also needed for rural development

Rural poor should get the same facilities as the urban India
wants – good lighting; wholesome food; clean drinking water and affordable health
services. “Most of the goods for rural poor should be produced locally with
local resources but using high technology. This will save huge energy in transporting
of goods. High technology is also needed for rural development so as to
maximize efficiency,” Dr Rajvanshi said.

For instance, he said, farming could be modernized through precision agriculture which can increase productivity and make farming attractive. Precision agriculture means precise and timely input to the crops and may include autonomous robots-based farming equipment.

He also showed that container agriculture for vegetables and fodder can transform farming.

Dr. Rajvanshi cited examples of the use of high technology for rural development from the work at NARI such as the Lanstove which not only provides excellent light but also cooks a complete meal for a family. The breeding work in NARI on sheep has resulted in producing twining sheep and helped increase the income of farmers. In the same way, sweet sorghum is being used to produce ethanol and syrup.

“All these technologies are the result of excellent S&T done on shoe string budget in a rural NGO,” he added.

There are many technological challenges yet to be explored –
development of cheap drones with camera for disease stress identification;
affordable and efficient drip irrigation systems; use of robots for planting,
weeding and harvesting; farm machines to run on farm-derived fuel.

On the way forward, he said

“we need excellent engineers, scientists and managers for rural R&D. Our institutions need to teach and inspire students on high tech rural development. Innovation ecosystem does not exist in Indian education. Our students are bright but the education system broken. That’s why we need to implant innovation bug in school and colleges. Innovative teaching methods needed.”

He suggested  venture funds for rural startups, funding for rural internships in grassroots S&T bodies and promotion of  social entrepreneurship. One way could be that all ministries should put aside 1% of their budget for rural R&D funding and there should be public procurement of rural R&D products.

By Dinesh C Sharma

(India Science Wire)

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