Jagadish Pradhan is inducing farmers in Odisha to re-embrace indigenous knowledge systems in agriculture, water and housing, paving the way for economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternatives. He has reduced the “drought vulnerability” of the farmers and the tribals, brought about, in part, by the introduction of the "modern" agricultural methods, by introducing organic farming.
Over the last two decades, Jagadish has developed and implemented several successful indigenous models for agriculture, water resource development, health care, housing and food storage and processing. The models leverage the traditional knowledge for sustainability and technology for accessibility and management by bringing together the best of both worlds. Villagers are involved in the development of the models through a participatory method, which helps them understand the long-term benefits and motivates them to implement and maintain these systems. Jagadish’s organisation, Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan, (SVA) also creates people’s institutions at community level and builds their capacities to ensure sustainability.
After the successful adoption of models, SVA involves government institutions and other local development organizations in order to increase the replication of the models across a larger region. As a result, Jagadish has successfully influenced changes to a number of public policies: he has convinced the Odisha Government to secure the rights for collection of non-timber forest produces in Odisha with the Gram Sabhas, and involve cooperatives and village level institutions for procurement as part of the paddy procurement policy in Odisha amongst others.
One of Jagadish’s key successes has been organising farmers in more than 600 villages to practice organic agriculture with high yielding indigenous variety of seeds. It has made Odisha a grain surplus state from a previously deficient one with increase in agricultural productivity, improved nutrition, and has brought a marked improvement in health and education. The Government of Odisha is now supporting and scaling this program. However, it has also removed restrictions on the inter-district movement of food grains in Odisha because of Jagadish’s advocacy and the grain surplus condition. In addition, the success of the SVA models has emphasised the importance of the traditional irrigation system to the Odisha government.
Jagadish is now planning to promote and nurture certain farmers’ producers’ organizations which will take up storage and value addition activities. The organisations are run by farmers and help them market their produce locally, nationally and globally. Jagadish’s cherished dream is to materialize ‘Gram Swaraj’ or ‘Village Self Rule’,which he argues will establish a society free of hunger, poverty and injustice.
Note: This was updated in December, 2013. Read on for the ELECTION profile