Validation & Value Addition

Sadbhav-SRISTI SANSHODHAN LABORATORY:

Defining New Standards in Validation & Value Addition of Peoples' Knowledge

Erosion of people's knowledge is perhaps a greater threat to sustainability than the erosion of the resource base itself. One reason why knowledge erosion (both traditional as well as contemporary) takes place is because of the low value attached to it. Most herbalists share their knowledge generously within and outside their communities without much charges or monetary compensation. It is as if their superior ethical values become responsible for their continued poverty. Young people around these herbalists may admire the spirit and the knowledge systems of their elders but seldom want to pursue the profession held by their preceding generation and perfecting it. One of the many reasons for their lack of interest lies in the absence of any assurance about a worthwhile future professional opportunity, which could ensure a higher standard of living. With rising aspirations in life, most young people would expectedly like to have some assurance of higher quality of living. One way to ensure this would be to add value to this knowledge base, to generate commercial as well as non-commercial returns and to ensure that people have a reasonable stake and share in the income so generated. Unless some value addition takes place locally, the trickle down of the benefits is generally low. In addition, if the providers of knowledge and conservators of resources do not have a stake in the institutions, which add value to their knowledge and creativity, it is unlikely that their gains will be durable and substantial.

Value addition and commercialization by linking formal and informal knowledge systems based on their strengths and assets will spur innovations to build sustainable technologies of the future. Often simple characterization of natural products adds value and creates demands or meets the existing demand in more cost effective manner than otherwise available. Therefore, converting local innovations into marketable products through on-farm, and state of the art lab research will help in addressing the issues of value addition for local populace and develop meritocratic benefit sharing agreements with innovators and conservators of a vast plant and genetic resource.

One way to make sure that this happens is to establish a laboratory, which is dedicated to add value to local knowledge, resources, and institutional structures. Hence, came up the Sadbhav-SRISTI Sanshodhan Laboratory, which converts the local knowledge and resources into value-added products with simultaneous development of processing facilities in the rural region where resources exist. The lab was established with the capital grant from the Sadbhav Trust, Mumbai.

OBJECTIVES OF THE LABORATORY

The major objective of the lab is to become a state-of-the-art resource centre in the validation and value addition of traditional knowledge and practices pertaining to bio-diversity, bio-pesticides, herbal healing formulations etc. The Lab has been certified by Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) as a premier and credible research instituion.The specific objectives include:

1. On-farm and On-station Trials of Farmers Innovation

It is often assumed that farmers innovations diffuse automatically through word of mouth or through farmers networks. This may not always be true, as we learnt through a study on pest management. The study showed that at least half the number of innovators do not share their innovations with others, because no one approached them for the same. Therefore, intervention of external agencies may be needed to diffuse such innovations through formal and informal channels. Formal extension agencies are reluctant to promote farmers innovations unless scientific validation under wide range of agro-ecological contexts is carried out. Formal research institutions have not shown much interest farmers innovations and therefore the same have not been validated for this reason. The on-farm and on-station trial would enable the innovative farmers and traditional knowledge holders get their knowledge claim validated. This is a classic example of blending of informal and formal science.

Besides the function of validation, the on-farm and on-station trials are also part of the functioning of the lab, while testing the efficacy of a newly developed product. Such trials enable a product to be screened thoroughly through multiple dimensions under multiple conditions and hence establish their credentials better.

2. Herbal pesticides and Growth Promoters

The increased realization of hazards due to chemical pesticides intensified the search of compounds with lower toxicity. Farmers have relatively easy access to local plants. This makes botanical approach a considerably economical and practical one. The demand for herbal pesticides is growing in proportion to the growth in demand for organically produced food. Except for Neem based products, the supply of herbal pesticides in the market is almost negligible. The lab aims at preparing various herbal pesticides and growth promoters using the formulations proposed and used by the farmers and traditional knowledge holders.

3.Organic Certification : Towards Sustainable Organic Crop Production

The transition towards organic agriculture in high growth regions has not yet begun on any significant scale. This is primarily due to lack of (a) awareness (b) Non-chemical but efficient alternative for soil nutrition, disease, pest and weed, and (c) stable demand and market channels for organic products in the country and outside. Exceptions are there in some plantation crops like tea and that too on a small scale. The situation is further compounded by the absence of a credible system of certification. The laboratory would aim at evolving standards and parameters for organic farming and certifications by undertaking through research on soil microbial diversity and other agro-ecological factors. In addition to this, the findings of the research being pursued in various parts of the world on hazardous effects of the chemicals on soil-plant-human will be communicated to people to increase the demand of green products.

4. Assessment of Pesticidal Residues and Microbial Diversity in Gujarat

Intensive use of chemical over extended period of time leads to non-sustainable development in two ways : one, it triggers the pesticide treadmill effect which leads to the decline of farm productivity in the long term, and two, it creates new health hazards for both the human and the natural environment. The lab aims at mapping the microbial diversity of soils of agricultural as well as uncultivated fields in the state Gujarat. This would enable us to advocate more dedicatedly for organic farming and bio-pesticides.

5. Indigenous Medicines

The laboratory aims to develop formulations for the treatment of veterinary and human diseases using (SRISTI's) large database on indigenous and herbal medicines and active ingredient determination quantitatively by means of most modern techniques.

CURRENT ACTIVITIES OF THE LAB

Currently, the lab is being headed by the Chief Co-ordinator and he is being assisted by a committed team of scientists from different streams. The lab over the years has streamlined its functioning and has been focusing upon the following activities:

1.Validation of Innovators Practices

Sadbhav-SRISTI Sanshodhan Laboratory has conducted laboratory and/ or field experiments on a large number of grassroots practices and herbal formulations reported by the innovators. In these practices, we screen plant extracts against the insect pests (aphids, heliothis, termites, white flies, diamond back moth, storage pests etc.), diseases like leaf curl in different crops etc. Grassroots practices are also taken up for validation for the purpose of seed germination, promotion of the plant growth and as the inducer of the flowering. For the validation of veterinary or human health healing practices, the screening of plant extracts are also carried out against the causing pathogens of different diseases.

 

2.Value addition and product development

The lab has focused upon two broad areas in value addition and product development viz. development of botanical pesticides, growth promoters and health and healing formulations for animal and human health.

(a)Botanical pesticides and growth promoters:

The lab has developed thirty four herbal formulations for plant growth promotion and control of common agricultural and storage pests. All the formulations have been tested at field conditions at different locations. For details of the products on pesticides and growth promoters, click here.

(b)Health and Healing Formulations:

The lab has developed health and healing formulations for different human and animal diseases. Most of the formulations have been field-tested and are in the final leg of product development. For details on health and healing product formulations, click here.

3.Field and Animal Trials

These essential trials are followed before the decision on commercialization is taken. The field and animal trials enable the lab to be sure about the efficacy of the formulations developed by the lab. Usually field trials are done for the bio-pesticides where as the animal trials are done for the veterinary formulations prepared by the lab. Apart from our regular research trials, we also conduct the trials at farmers field for the demonstration of effectiveness of our products and their feedback. We conduct the animal experimentation at the recognized stations/institutes and as per the guidelines of GOI.

4.Commercialization of the products

We are in process to commercialize the technologies developed by us through small and medium scale entrepreneurs to multi-national companies. In fact, one of our products, an eczema cream (made from the value addition to the grassroots knowledge) has been commercialised with the help of Troikka Pharmaceuticals. We are looking forward to more and more pharmaceutical companies and entrepreneurs to join hand with us for commercialization of our product.

COLLABORATING WITH THE LAB:

We are always looking forward to collaborate with like-minded individuals and entities to enrich the work in the laboratory. Our products have tremendous potential and value for the pharmaceutical, drug and bio-pesticide industries. Currently, we are ready with thirty-four pesticides and growth promoters and fourteen veterinary and human health-healing products for commercialization and looking for partners.

The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to conduct research on plants and herbal products. In fact, it is one of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) certified Labs across the counrty to undertake validation of practices and hence the reports of the lab are widely accepted. So, any establishment, who is looking for avenues for validating and testing of their products, consultancy on value addition and product design can certainly find solutions with us. "For details on partnering on any one of the issues mention above, contact us."