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System of Rice Intensification in India Innovation History and Institutional Challenges

Innovation in the agricultural sector can come from a variety of sources. However, in the
latter part of the 20th century, the most heralded improvements upon previous practice
have come from scientific research whose results were converted into technological
applications. The location and expansion of agricultural research in large, formal
institutions after World War II eclipsed the earlier ad-hoc leadership in technical change
that had derived from agricultural practitioners.
Yet, toward the end of the 20th century, there was a growing discomfort with the closed
and unidirectional nature of this linear model of research → extension → adoption as
sequential steps for raising agricultural productivity. The uptake of innovations developed
in isolation from end-users was not as widespread as desired, and the limitations in
impact were thought to derive not only from faults in the extension process. The nature
of the innovations being produced by this system, although some were magnificent and
magnificently successful, was not meeting all needs. The innovations usually benefited
persons who were relatively more advantaged and well-placed compared to those who
were less well-endowed and more marginally located.
Suggested alternative models had various designations such as participatory technology
development, reliance on indigenous knowledge systems, farmer-centred research and
extension, or the ‘triangular’ model of Merrill-Sands and Kaimowitz (ISNAR). This latter
model called for equilateral, interactive relationships among researchers, extensionists
and farmers.
While there has been growing support for such reorientations, there is not yet a consensus
on what will replace the standard model for research and extension, which ascribes to
researchers the key role of coming up with new and better technologies. It assigns to
extensionists the role and responsibility for communicating innovations to farmers and
gives farmer the role of adopters. This latter role implies a responsibility to accept whatever
is presented as superior technology.

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