Interview with Dr. Dattatray Rangnekar, Former Senior vice president in BAIF
Part I: Historical Perspective
Q. 1 Please tell us in brief about your background, especially education
Myself Dr. Dattatray Vitthal Rangnekar from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. After completing B. V. Sc & A. H. from College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Mhow, M.P. I joined Indian Veterinary research Institute, Izatnagar, UP. for and Madras. Post-graduation and Doctorate in Animal Nutrition with Animal Breeding and Animal Physiology as minor subjects Those days facilities for Doctorate work in Veterinary related subjects were available only at IVRI, Izatneagar and Vet Colleges at Mathura and Madras.
Q. 2 What is your area of specialization? Can you describe the domain details and indicate organizations where you gained major experience in livestock related fields?
My area of specialization is Animal Nutrition. Soon after completing PhD work I got offer to join Amul Dairy as the first Animal Nutrition Officer in their Feed factory. This is where I got practical experience / knowledge of dairy animal feeding/nutrition. Later I joined Cyanamid India Ltd. at Mumbai as a Technical Officer and my work was to develop new products (Medicines and feed supplements) and testing of products on livestock/poultry. I worked 3-4 years in Cyanamid after that Joined BAIF in 1968. In BAIF I got opportunity to plan, implement, monitor development, extension and applied research programs in a few states. The programs starting with dairy cattle development became fully integrated Rural Livelihood Development programs. I took retirement from BAIF in the year 2000 as Senior Vice President. After retiring from the BAIF I was associated with the NDDB as a Consultant for about 5 years to strengthen extension activities and later with MP Rural Livelihood project for 5 years. I also got opportunities to associate as consultant with some international organisations like the FAO of the United Nations and the World Bank. Involvement in various activities of these organisations provided me very good opportunities of learning about various aspects related to livestock production development and livelihood development in general. Another very useful outcome of association with these organisations was an “Opportunity for Self-De-learning” – setting aside one’s specialization and take a ‘Learner and Participatory Approach’.
Q. 3 You were associated with BAIF for long time, can you please us brief history how this organization evolved?
3.1 The BAIF was established by in 1967 at Uruli Kanchan near Pune. Manibhai who associate of was native of Surat district in Gujarat and was brought to Uruli Kanchan by Gandhiji while establishing Nisargupachar Ashram at near Pune around 1946. Soon after the Nature Cure Ashram was established Gandhiji told Manibhai Desai that he should get involved in village development work essential to sustain our independence. He explained that the development activities should generate ‘Remunerative Self Employment’. When asked by Manibhai which activities should be taken up he explained that planning should be after understanding local situation and problems/needs and views of the local people. The activities should be such that majority of rural families can adopt and benefit but taking care that it does not create dependence on others. The above-mentioned recommendations/guidelines/principles narrated by Gandhiji form the base of approach of the BAIF for planning development programs Considering advice of Gandhiji and interacting with rural families, while living at Uruli Kanchan, it became apparent to Manibhai that it is only the agriculture (crop and livestock) development that meets recommendations/advice of Gandhiji.
3.2 He indulged in a variety of activities like developing Food crops, Horticulture crops, establishing a dairy herd (Gir cows) and irrigation facility (Lift irrigation) for about 15 years and the results were very encouraging. However, he felt that crop/livestock development should be planned on scientific lines and implemented in a large area (a number of states) amid for that formation of an organisation with a strong team of technical persons, having desired qualifications and experience is necessary. Around 1965 he started identifying and involving like minded and development oriented persons who would associate with him and help in developing a Non-Government Organisation with desired capabilities. And thus the idea of forming Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF) was finalised and it was registered as a Trust on 24th of August 1967. The choice of the first development activity of the BAIF was debated at length and it was at this juncture I met Manibhai Desai (in 1967). I got opportunity to participate in discussions with Trustees of the BAIF and some leading persons (community leaders and scientists) on deciding first development activity of the BAIF that would be point of start.
3.3 It was decided to take up cattle development as first development activity of the BAIF since it met the basic concepts/ethos of the organisation in view of the following characteristic features of cattle keeping
- Cattle are owned by most of the rural families irrespective of their religion, caste, economic status. It is a part of farming system of land holders and many landless also keep cattle as a major source of livelihood. Thus there is scope of extending benefits to majority of rural families,
- Cattle keeping is traditional in the country and is not new activity and cattle perform multiple functions.
- India has large Cattle population, though most are low milk producing but provide a good resource base to produce better milk yielding animals.
- Milk is well accepted as nutritional food and its demand is increasing. Through Operation Flood milk marketing was getting organised and the BAIF could concentrate on improving milk production.
- Milk production is labour intensive, providing work and income throughout the year and women can benefit directly. Milk prices in Indian market have been steadily rising and have never gone down like other agriculture commodities.
3.4 The BAIF started cattle development work from Western Maharashtra and South Gujarat where Sugar Coops invited the BAIF to start cattle development in their areas of operation. After discussions with Manibhai the management of Sugar Coops felt cattle keeping would be appropriate supplementary and complimentary activity for sugarcane farmers as well as labours. Cattle development was soon recognised as a development activity under Rural Development program of the Govt. of India for the benefit of families below poverty line. After this recognition BAIF was invited to start cattle development in a number of states through funds of Rural development program with the condition that more than 50% of families benefiting will be from below poverty strata. The BAIF got involved in 13 states of the country through this program.
3.5 A unique feature of the BAIF is that it is one of the very few development NGOs where along with development activities research and extension activities are taken up. It strongly believes that “Development without support of Research looses effectiveness and Research without linkage with development remains academic”. BAIF is probably the only NGO implementing production and testing of breeding bulls using progeny testing and initiated work on new technology of Genomic selection and is now producing sexed semen. It is also working on characterisation and development of a few indigenous breeds of cattle and buffaloes.
3.6 BAIF considered Cattle development as an entry point development program which besides improving livelihood of rural families enabled establishing credibility and rapport with rural families, understand the situation in areas of operation and identify needs of the people to plan additional development interventions.
The team implementing development activities were referred as ‘Agents of Change’.
Q. 4 You were also with NDDB for long time. When we look at NDDB contribution to dairy sector it appears to be heavily tilted towards milk collection and processing but not much on animals, except AI? Why this has happened?
While it is true that in earlier years there was priority for organising milk collection, processing and marketing but the programs of NDDB have combination of Milk collection/processing/ marketing – dairy animal development/ research as well as development of producer’s organisations. NDDB has taken up projects covering all aspects related to Dairy sector – covering production and health aspects, milk collection, processing and marketing aspects as also organisational development. Since last decade or so NDDB initiated development of Indigenous breeds of dairy animals (cattle and buffaloes). It is also working on production and selection of breeding bulls through progeny testing and the newer approach of Genomic selection and is now adopting new technology of producing sexed semen. The NDDB has well equipped laboratories working on Animal Health and Nutrition aspects and has established one of the largest vaccine production units in the country. In the initial phase there was emphasis and more investment in setting up Cooperatives, milk collection/processing units and marketing set up with the premise that ensuring market for milk will attract producers to increase milk production.
Q. 5 I believe your expertise is in extension education and farmers organizations, can you tell us the meaning of extension education?
I am not an Extension specialist but a Practitioner and Learner of Extension. In view of association with various organisations mentioned above I got opportunities to learn and practice ‘Extension’ and understand its crucial role in getting desired outcome from development interventions.
5.1 Extension activities in agriculture started in India in support of ‘Green Revolution’. It was referred as ‘Training and Visit (T&V) system’ planned by international experts Beanor and Baxter and developed into largest agriculture extension network in the world. The approach was to ‘educate the farmer about desired agronomic practices to be adopted’ to get desired yields from improved seed made available through the Green Revolution program. While the results of Green Revolution program supported by T and V extension system were very impressive, considering increase in yields of food grains, its limitations were noticed after a decade or so. It became apparent that the T & V approach of making uniform recommendations, with technical persons telling the farmer what to do and need for high external inputs it is mostly the resource rich and irrigation facility who benefitted. The approach, often referred as 1st Dimension Extension, was that all the knowledge about agriculture is with the technical persons and farmers know very little and should follow the recommendations made. The job of Extension Officers was to organise farmer meetings and training camps in which farmer is told what to do. The recommendations were out of text books and literature, mostly based on Western concepts/recommendations and presuming that ideal conditions are provided. Another major activity was ‘Transfer of Technologies by arranging demonstrations’ and in most cases done without studying the need or appropriateness of the technology. The knowledge about agriculture production and experience/knowledge/wisdom of the farmer (earned through generations of involvement) was ignored.
5.2 The concept of extension changed with experience and better understanding of development issues/challenges. Reviews and evaluations of agriculture development projects clearly indicated that smallholder producers from rainfed areas, where conditions varied a lot; (accounting for 75% area) did not benefit much. Need for changing extension approaches became very clear and 3rd and 4th dimension Extension emerged. Major aspects emphasized in the new dimension of agriculture extension are – “Departure from Transfer of Technology approach and adoption of Participatory – Interactive approach”, in which changes or solutions to problems are jointly decided involving Key Farmers. Moreover, extension system has also to cope with newer demands/constraints like ‘Coping with Climate change, reducing use of Chemicals and establishing linkage with market’.
5.3 Extension has been repeatedly pointed out as a weak link in livestock development limiting its impact since studies indicated that adoption, by livestock producers, of recommendations and technologies pushed by the Livestock Extension Officers is very limited. Considerable variation in impact / outcome of dairy and other livestock development programs between different regions of the country and types of families indicates need for a re-look at the extension approach in livestock sector. Adoption of approach similar to T and V, of making uniform recommendations and Transfer of Technology needs to change and the main reasons for this suggestion, based on experience and learning gained through long term involvement, are summarised below
- Much of the livestock is owned by resource poor families – small holders and landless and they have no risk taking ability and hence averse to immediate change (livestock are a part of risk coverage mechanism).
- There is significant influence of social factors on management practices since livestock have strong social linkage (majority of families consider livestock as a member of the family). And hence management practices adopted by families of different communities differ within an area/village.
- Livestock and particularly dairy animals are kept for a long time and Impact of any change in management/feeding of livestock or use of technology has to be assessed over a much longer period than with crops and hence producers hesitate to change traditional practices.
- Livestock management and feeding work is handled by women (particularly with calves and milking animals) and extension/education/training activity aimed at women needs a different approach. These activities should be of short duration, practical oriented and organised considering their priorities and convenience.
- Livestock keeping is traditional, with multipurpose objectives and a part of livelihood system of rural families and they (especially the women) have gained experience and knowledge about animals that should not be ignored.
- The technical persons posted as ‘Livestock Extension Officers’ are neither oriented nor trained in extension/communication and hence cannot work effectively as extension officers.
5.4 Based on the above mentioned observations / experiences it is recommended to adopt “Participatory and Systems approach” in which prevailing constraints are identified, prioritised and solutions searched jointly. Solutions / technology to overcome constraints and improving productivity should be technically sound, economically beneficial and socially adoptable. Such an approach could be described as 3rd Dimensional extension in which knowledge and experience of all stakeholders (particularly the producer) is pooled and utilised to resolve most of the problems. Thus in the 3rd Dimension approach both famers and technical persons get educated about the prevailing situation and strive for solution. Experience shows that Involving women as extension workers (after orientation and training) and use of local language in discussions would make extension more effective.