South Asia has a rich agricultural history which spans more than 5,000 years. The Kandian Home
Gardens in Sri Lanka, the terraced rice gardens of Nepal, the Apatani system in northeast India
and the fish-rice farming system in Bangladesh are all well-known examples of this unique wealth
of knowledge. Yet the knowledge and skills of the farming communities who have developed these
sustainable, resilient and productive systems are being increasingly bypassed, overlooked and
undermined by a new era of agricultural research that is taking hold in the region.
Drawing on a wealth of evidence and new data accessed under the Indian Right to Information
Act, the author of this excellent and timely report clearly shows how an emerging web of powerful
actors and processes is now redefining public research in South Asia. Shalini Bhutani has carefully
analysed the forces and factors that are re-shaping and privatising public agricultural research in
Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These factors act as ‘determinants of innovation’:
social, cultural, economical and/or political factors that are now redefining the governance of public
research, the development of technologies, models of agricultural production, and the dynamics of
food systems in South Asia. They are all carefully scrutinised in this paper along with their functions
and their mutual relationships on a national, sectoral or regional scale.
The author also shows how the governance of public sector agricultural research is undergoing
rapid change in South Asia under the influence of global economic forces such as the new rules of
global finance, free trade, intellectual property rights, new laws, as well as consolidations and strategic
alliances in the agricultural input industry and the structural power of multinational food corporations.
National and international law are key drivers of change in this context.
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