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SRISTI initiatives for sustainable agriculture and rural development: a response to Post-cold war


IN THE PAST, RURAL development strategies in India relied on piecemeal agrarian reforms and expansion of governmental delivery systems. These strategies met with varying degrees of success. Now, with the post-cold war developments of deficit budget, structural adjustment and folding back of the interventionist state, many of these rural development strategies are likely to be even less effective than in the past. Some civil society organizations are realizing the need to shift from strategies that stress the delivery system to the strategies that rely on self-propelled initiatives of people. In this paper, we describe one such strategy which attempts to build upon people's own creativity and resourcefulness. It may be called a knowledge-led rather than a material resource-led strategy.* We emphasize that this strategy was not a result of post-cold war developments. Rather it has become more pertinent and relevant because of these developments.

* It is important to mention here that we in SRISTI do not approve of the term 'resource poor farmers' because the term implies that knowledge is apparently not a resource or people are poor in this resource as well. Neither seems to be true.

This paper gives a brief description of the post-cold war scenario in India, we look at the limitations of previous strategies, review some of the more creative strategies used in Gujarat state, discuss conditions which influenced us to come up with an alternative strategy of rural development, and provide a brief description of the goals of the strategy and how it is being operationalized.

Strategies of rural development could be evaluated with the five-E's: Ethics, Environment, Equity, Excellence and Efficiency. In the post-cold war environment there is a tendency to achieve short-term efficiency, often at the cost of the other criteria. Such strategies are bound to be non-sustainable and should be guarded against.

Market-led strategies have consistently by-passed backward areas. At the same time, the delivery system has been curtailed during the post-cold war era, affecting the backward areas the most. These failures can be corrected if extension agencies adopt self-propelled strategies such as the one described.

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