Neha Kumari and Meenakshi Saxena
Exotica Dreamville Apartments, Greater Noida (West), Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh
Public and private extension systems have been the major providers of extension and farm advisory services to the farming communities in India. With increased population, the ratio of extension workers to farmers has gone so wide that it serves only 7 per cent farmers in India. This gap is now getting filled by various experiments of extension delivery through community-based organizations where the practicing farmers act as community resource persons to provide extension services and are accountable to community-based organisations. Communities living in specific agroecosystems have focused on the role of indigenous knowledge for the construction of sustainable technologies to help them sustain their livelihoods. Indigenous technical knowledge refers to contextually-bound knowledge, practices and technologies that helped resource-poor farmers to experiment, adapt and innovate. Indigenous knowledge of local communities has further been refined when developing and integrating cost-effective and sustainable technologies into the communities and there emerged few local innovations of local communities. These communities have also identified community resource persons and indigenous ways of delivering farm advisory services. Thus, such extension services (including technical advices) generated from among the community would be cheaper for small and marginal farmers, relevant, useful, and quite easily applicable for solving the local farm problems; socially compatible and economically feasible and viable especially in complex agro-ecosystems. The first such initiative was taken up in Andhra Pradesh as Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) in 2005, which has spread to various states, under different names and programs. SERP, DRDA, cluster and village activists and whole village communities collaboratively manage CMSA through well-defined administrative frameworks. CMSA supports the poor farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices, reducing the costs of cultivation and increasing net incomes. Community managed extension systems ensure collective responsibility and accountability of the whole community for farmers’ welfare.