Collaborate, Create, Communicate

Women overcoming the effects of drought and pests through a virtual academy

Back in 2004, as part of our first Investment Plan, we supported an idea from the  International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to establish a system for innovative knowledge sharing with regard to drought preparedness through a Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT) involving advances in ICTs coupled with Open Distance Learning approaches.

With International Women’s Day just around the corner (on 8 March), I’m happy to report on the progress of  VASAT, which is helping women in rural India to help themselves.

Although the Mahabubnagar district in Andhra Pradesh, India, had only about 10 per cent of its usual rainfall a few years ago, a network of 8,000 women ensured that the men folk didn’t have to seek job opportunities in the cities when traditional crops failed. The Adarsha Mahila Samaikhya organization, a women’s welfare network comprising more than 560 self-help groups from affected villages in the Addakkal area, enabled these enterprising women to establish alternative businesses ranging from a successful restaurant, to a women-only bank, to a dairy farm, to a handloom shop …

Using the latest ICTs

By interacting with scientists at ICRISAT via audio and video conferencing, representatives for these Adarsha women (or village network assistants, as they are known) received warning about the intensity and impact of the drought in 21 villages in their area. A two-way exchange of information between the women and the scientists working for the Center’s VASAT initiative meant that the farmers were able to get tailored, up-to-date advice, enabling them to take the necessary action to prepare for the drought. The network assistants also help disseminate information on cropping practices (drought-tolerant crops, cultivating practices, pest control, soil fertility, etc.) that can also help farmers maximize their harvests.

Congratulations to VASAT for responding to the need for real time knowledge by training these women to communicate the problems affecting farmers directly to scientists.

Read the full report and find out how VASAT is helping to change lives in the semi-arid regions of India and Africa.

Photo credit: VASAT