Managing Sustainable Transitions in Agriculture
Newer Directions for Research and Civic Action
16-18 November 2023
Managing Sustainable Transitions
The first international conference on the theme of ‘Managing Sustainable Transitions in Agriculture: Newer Directions for Research and Civic Action’ took place from November 16- 18 in Anand, Gujarat, India. The event was hosted by the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), in collaboration with the Indian Institute for Technology (IIT) Delhi, and the Network of Rural Agrarian Studies (NRAS). With an explicit focus on sustainable transitions possibilities within the agrarian domain in the Global South, the event was unique in its commitment to transcend conventional academic boundaries and include representation from civil society organisations and grassroots communities to share their experiences. Agri-food systems receive relatively less attention in global transition research, and the conference played a crucial role in highlighting the significance of agri-food systems in the transitions agenda. To enable wider discussions, pre-conference events in hybrid mode were organised. Over a 100 people gathered to attend and 51 papers were presented across eight thematic tracks. The inaugural session of the conference featured the launch of a book titled “Farming Futures: Reimagining Producer Organisations in India” and a compendium “Towards Learning Alliances in Agroecology”. Younger academics and Early career professionals found the conference especially useful to connect with diverse organisations and appreciate the vast landscape of initiatives, critical barriers and research directions. Providing such regional-level platforms for transitions researchers is important to strengthen transitions research in the Global South, highlighting the local context and justice aspects into the agenda, and decolonising transitions research.
Exploring newer paradigms for sustainable food systems
MST | Inauguration
The inaugural session highlighted the importance of collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. The inaugural session of the conference featured the launch of a book titled “Farming Futures: Reimagining Producer Organisations in India” and a compendium “Towards Learning Alliances in Agroecology”. The keynote speaker for the session was a veteran farmer, activist and Padmashree awardee Shri Bharat Bhushan Tyagi. He spoke on the need for a new paradigm for sustainable transitions based on principles of agroecology.
Prof Umakant Dash
Bharat Bhushan Tyagi
Dr A R Vasavi
NRAS and Punarchith
Dr C K Timbadia
Vice Chancellor GNFSU
Agha Khan Foundation
Dr Meenesh Shah
Chairman, NDDB and IRMA
MST | Valedictory
The Valedictory Ceremony focused on agroecology and sustainable agriculture. The speakers underscored the importance of agroecology, farmer empowerment, increased consumer awareness, civil society collaboration, and urgesdyouth involvement for a sustainable future. The conference also featured sessions on 'Ideas for strengthening or creating an Agroecological Sustainability Transitions Network' and a panel discussion on 'Deepening and scaling Natural Farming Transitions' with panelists Jayen Mehta from GCMMF, Ajay Vir Jakhar from BKS, SM Vijayanand, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Rural Development, Gayatri Lobo from ATECF, Deepak Chamola from GIZ and Pramel Gupta from NCNF. The discussion was moderated by G Muralidhar from RySS.
Managing Sustainable Transitions in Central India
This panel discussion delved into the complexities of sustainability, emphasizing its context-dependent nature. The key points include the need for involving diverse stakeholders—government, businesses, and communities—in managing transitions, acknowledging challenges like balancing conflicting, and overcoming resistance to change. Despite the hurdles, the panelists expressed optimism about creating a sustainable and equitable future in Central India with the right approach.
Ensuring Gender Equality in Sustainable Transitions in Agriculture
This panel discussed gender equality in sustainable agriculture, emphasizing the importance of agroecology for women farmers. Key points include the need for a gender-transformative approach, challenges faced by women in climate change, and opportunities for their leadership in creating a sustainable food system. The panel calls for more research on gender dimensions in agroecology and increased support for women transitioning to agroecological practices.
Newer Diections for Research and Civic Action for Sustainable Transitions in Agriculture
The panelists discussed challenges in sustainable agriculture, including limited collaboration between academia and civil society, insufficient research funding, and undervaluation of positive externalities. The panel calls for increased investment, particularly in studying the social and economic impacts of digitization in agriculture.
Deepening and Scaling Natural Farming Transitions
Here panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities of scaling up natural farming in India, with a focus on issues like lack of consumer awareness, limited government support, and insufficient private sector investment. The panelists emphasized the need for policy changes, education, and marketing to promote natural farming products. Despite challenges, there is optimism about the growing market for these products and the potential for government and private sector investment to mainstream natural farming in India.
Interview of Participants
Bharat Bhushan Tyagi
Padma Shri Farmer and Educator
Dr Richa Kumar
Indian Institute of Delhi
Dr A R Vasavi
NRAS and Punarchith
ONganic Foods Pvt. Ltd.
In preparation for MST 2023, we organized two impactful pre-conference webinars. The first, "Beyond Productivity and Populism: Understanding Agrarian India," featured Dr. Richa Kumar and Dr. P S Vijayshankar, active members of NRAS, providing key insights from the "State of Rural and Agrarian India" report. The second webinar, "Exploring Power, Inclusivity and Intersectionality," coordinated by Prof C Shambu Prasad, included international participants discussing gender and sustainability, setting the stage for diverse discussions at the main conference.