Prof MS Swaminathan receives World Agriculture Prize, institutes fellowship with prize money

Prof MS Swaminathan receives World Agriculture Prize, institutes fellowship with prize money

M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation is happy to announce the introduction of the M. S. Swaminathan Junior Research Fellowship from the year 2019.

Prof M. S. Swaminathan, Founder, MSSRF, is a world renowned scientist, whose contribution to the Green Revolution movement in the 1960s ensured India became self-sufficient in food production. A plant geneticist by training, he is the recipient of several awards, both national and international, and has held several important positions in influencing agricultural policy and research. He founded MSSRF to spearhead an evergreen revolution in India.

The M. S. Swaminathan Fellowship is an opportunity for young scholars to contribute to addressing some of the burning issues of our time, including the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) of eradicating hunger, addressing climate change, and preserving biodiversity for posterity. This is a national-level programme, open to Indians and to scholars working or studying in India. The amount of the Fellowship will be Rs 25,000 per month + limited travel expenses.

About the Fellowship

The Junior Research Fellowship will be awarded to two scholars, who have completed their post graduate degrees not before the year 2017-2018. The Masters’ Degree can be in plant science/agriculture/social and political science. The fellowship is given for three years and the scholars would undertake field work. The data compiled under the fellowship could be used by the scholars for their doctoral work, leading into a Ph. D from a reputed university. The following five areas are considered under this fellowship:

  • The UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 of Zero Hunger
  • Farming System for Nutrition (FSN)
  • Genetic garden of bio-fortified crops and halophytes
  • Bio-valley for curative and culinary diversity
  • Eco-technologies for Eco-enterprises

Application procedure

Research scholars who are interested in undertaking study in any of these five areas that MSSRF is involved in can submit their applications to the Executive Director, MSSRF, at executivedirector@mssrf.res.in, by November 30, 2018.

About the Fellowship Themes

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 of Zero Hunger

MSSRF has been working in these areas for over the past three decades. Sustainable food security is one of the most important components of the work undertaken by MSSRF. Although MSSRF has been working on this issue since its beginning, a need was felt to have a separate department to cater to this field. The Food Security programme area was created in 2004-05, under the aegis of the B V Rao Centre for Sustainable Food Security and the Ford Foundation Chair for Women and Sustainable Food Security. The department combines research and community based interventions to ensure food and nutrition security of all citizens. The recruited fellow under this theme will have the opportunity to study the challenges and opportunities in achieving this goal at local level.

Farming System for Nutrition (FSN)

Prof Swaminathan’s vision has been to move forward from food security to nutrition security. The Farming System for Nutrition is one of the approaches advocated by him to tackle food and nutrition security among the rural households. The FSN is a farming system that combines crops, livestock and sometimes fish. The FSN model aims to strengthen the agriculture-nutrition linkages, to address the dietary needs of farm families, with special reference to women and children. MSSRF has over the past year been working on the FSN model across four States in India i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. Findings and recommendations from the respective states are compiled and sent to the national government so that it can add to national policies on food and nutrition.

Genetic Garden of Bio-Fortified Crops and Halophytes

Genetic garden as an idea was promoted by Prof Swaminathan to ensure that nutrient-specific maladies could be tackled at the farm level. Genetic gardens would contain a variety of crops with specific nutrient content, suitable for inclusion in the local farming system. Naturally bio-fortified crops such as the Moringa or drumstick, is a nutrient-rich crop that can easily be added to the field to address iron deficiencies, particularly in women. Similar nutri-dense crops can be planted in the fields to address specific micro-nutrient deficiencies and these can be combined with the block and district level schemes.

Halophytes are naturally occurring salt-tolerant plants. MSSRF has been working with coastal communities since the department’s inception in 1989. Mangroves and other halophytes have been promoted among these coastal communities as a measure to reduce climate change risks. In fact, the first genetic garden of halophytes was established by MSSRF in Vedaranyam, Tamil Nadu in November 2017. Commenting on this garden, Prof Swaminathan said, “This gene bank will be a source of genetic material for breeding new varieties of crops tolerant to coastal salinity. Also, this genetic garden will help in promoting below sea level farming, as it is already in practice in Kuttanad in Kerala.”

Bio-valley for Curative and Culinary Diversity

Bio-valley is a concept rooted in the Silicon Valley-home of many technology corporations and startups in the IT sector. The Bio-valley can have a cluster of bio-villages that engage in business development in the herbal area benefitting the climate adaptation capacity of small-holder farmers in the valleys of the Western Ghats covering four most vulnerable districts of Kerala viz., Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad.  Various strategies for climate change adaptations such as climate smart herbal cultivation, and market development can be demonstrated through this kind of a project. The products can be marketed in an Eco label of Climate Smart Bio-Valley Foods and Herbals through the window of a Farmer Producer Company or new appropriate Start-up units. Various cultural festivals and food festivals can also be organised to develop markets for the products and to promote responsible tourism.

Eco-technologies for Eco-enterprises

Eco-technologies are those tools that can help farm women and men to enhance productivity in perpetuity, without ecological harm and techniques that include sustainable farming practices like organic farming, LEISA, permaculture, biodynamic etc., to agro-processing and value addition to the biomass. Since most rural livelihoods relate to crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, agro-forestry and farm forestry, and agro-processing, priority in agro-based livelihoods will have to go to enhancing the productivity and profitability of the major farming systems of the village in an environmentally sustainable basis. Markets for products and services derived by using such technologies are growing, which offer opportunities for generating alternative sources of income and for production based on sustainable use of biodiversity. Markets also have the potential to stimulate conservation and cultivation of less known crops/ orphan species. This would be possible only by meaningful research and widespread education of consumers.