Swaminathan nurtures his foundation to adulthood

August 9th, 2008 - 10:48 am ICT by IANS  

By Papri Sri Raman
Chennai, Aug 9 (IANS) India’s top agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan got the first World Food Prize in 1987. He used the $200,000 to set up the research foundation that has become an adult this week. The mission of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) now is to promote “bio-happiness”, the founder said at its 21st birthday celebrations here.

“It is important that MSSRF, which is a centre for research on sustainable agricultural and rural development, maintains its pioneering character and continues to develop and disseminate innovative methods of technological empowerment for rural India.”

For this, the father of India’s green revolution of the 1970s called for instituting a “sustainable endowment fund, the interest from which can assure job security to scientists having the capacity and urge to become transformational agents”.

Swaminathan describes the Chennai-based MSSRF as an institution for “anyone who can contribute to its ideal” of sustainable development. One of the country’s top farm research organisations, it does not have any farmland of its own. It does field tests in farmers’ farms.

The institution researches and develops policy for major areas such as coastal systems, biodiversity, biotechnology, eco-technology and food security, gender and development and informatics.

MSSRF has also pioneered a gene bank development in India for cereals, pulses and herbal medicines, and has a Genetic Resource Centre since 1990, which has been studying climate change and sea level rise for nearly two decades now. It has engineered a series of salinity-resistant crops and done pioneering research in use of radio-elements to create salt resistant mutants of rice, mangroves and several other crops.

The MSSRF agro-biodiversity centre at Wayanad supports community biodiversity systems, which steers a programme to collect endangered and rare plants. The Global Biodiversity Assessment says there are nearly 14 million species on earth, and India has a treasure house that is fast vanishing.

The MSSRF technical resource centre empowers tribal groups in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other states by training them in primary data collection in hills and forests, in crop conservation and multicrop farming.

MSSRF also pioneered the concept of bio-village in the villages of Puducherry. It has now introduced village knowledge centres that are satellite connected, provide computers and phone services to disseminate knowledge about weather, rainfall, crop prices, pesticides, technology - everything a village may need to know to remain sustainable.

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