One of the major premises of SRISTI’s documentation of grassroots innovations and traditional practices is its emphasis on stemming the knowledge erosion. Very often compared with the intensity of resource erosion, knowledge erosion is a major hindrance before the Great Indian dream of becoming the knowledge super-power. The documentation initiative of SRISTI aims at not only preserving the traditional and grassroots practices and innovations from extinction, but also creating a platform that can lend greater operational and commercial viability to such grassroots genius and enable people-to-people knowledge sharing. It is also the first step in mapping the Intellectual Property Right of the tradition knowledge holders.
The focus of the SRISTI’s initiatives centre around the issue of discovering the abundance of traditional and indigenous knowledge that have made the grassroots knowledge rich. However, the entire exercise of unearthing such web of knowledge is couched in a framework of ethical values that are central to the existence of Honeybee Network. The Honey Bee database, which is the home to some more than 51,000 grassroots innovations, is the result of comprehensive networking undertaken by SRISTI through roping in multiple partners like Gram Vidyapeeth, local Honey Bee collaborators, many green cultivators, grassroots innovators, regional and National collaborators etc to tap the vast pool of traditional knowledge and innovative practices.
Besides the students from various educational institutions, who undertake projects and dissertations, pertaining to grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge, SRISTI has enetered into collaboration with several Gram Vidyapeeth throughout Gujarat. The students of the Vidyapeeths would spend sometime of their summer vacations in their hometown to track the ‘odd balls’ i.e. uncommon practices and the underlying knowledge therein. Besides, the students, the farmers’ and innovators themselves write to SRISTI or its local collaborators about any of the traditional knowledge innovative practice that they have come across.
It is critical to understand our methodology of scouting as it is the knowledge extraction from which, the process of knowledge asymmetry begins.
We neither use to any of the so called Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) or Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods. These methods create a cast of mind, which legitimizes short cut approach to learning and often lead to exploitative mode of relationship with people.
We believe that learning has to be mutual, patient and in categories that people use for defining their world-view. Hence, instead of pre-fixed format oriented scouting, we scout through ‘snow–balling’ approach.
One of the methods employed by SRISTI to track innovations and traditional knowledge was to scan the old vernacular literature and the exercise has been proved to be fruitful. For example an old Gujarati book (1898) authored by Gangaben of Mansa village provides an excellent example of womens’ creativity. She was a young widow, when she wrote a book that included 2080 recipes for the self-employment of rural youth. Her other books also documented many herbal pesticides, vegetables dyes, ways of storing grains etc. Scanning of such literature has provided tremendous insight into the local innovations and creativity.
Over the years, SRISTI has participated in many agricultural fairs and has conducted many biodiversity contests for the scouting and documentation of innovations and traditional knowledge. Participation in such fairs made SRISTI realize the importance of placing prototypes of innovations in the stall to attract more audience. Organisations of bio-diversity contests among the school children was quite fruitful. The children are either told to list down the number of plants they know along with their uses or to bring the samples of the plant along with their uses. Such contests have been held by SEVA, Madurai, the local Honey Bee collaborator for Tamilnadu and other collaborators in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat etc. The bio-diversity contests were instrumental in bringing about the creative genius among the young minds, most of who hailed from disadvantageous background. Organisations of bio-diversity contests among the children lead to knowledge churning in the village. It brought about many innovative practices for the conservation of biodiversity, that would otherwise, would not have come out.