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prof. anil gupta
shodhyatri, learner from nature, common people and within, always looking for unaided self inspired innovations for larger good
shodhyatri, learner from nature, common people and within, always looking for unaided self inspired innovations for larger good

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Research for meeting unmet needs: taxonomy of translational models

A very large number of high-tech labs in the country were set up to solve the unmet needs of the society but the pace at which solutions flow to society has been rather slow. Recently during foundation day lecture at one of such leading labs, we had a very open and self-critical discussion on the models of translational research.

Let us begin with four basic models: one, we make a readymade cloth and give it to the user, take it or leave it. The user has no choice except to use it as it is. Second: I give semi-stitched cloth to the users and they get it finally stitched accordingly to their needs to have final dresses. User have some choice to shape the final form of the solution. Third: I talk to users, understand their needs and then jointly design, weave and stich the cloth they need. A need driven collaborative design model. Fourth: I study the way users cope with the problems, identify the most successful or healthy users who have either not faced the problem or have resolved it through their own knowledge and creativity. I build upon it, add value and improve the effectiveness of local solution/s. To illustrate, Robert Abramovitch, a Michigan State University microbiologist and TB expert, recently found that a centuries old Chinese traditional medicine artemisinin helped in control of TB by not letting Tb bacterium become dormant (Otherwise, patients get a false sense of relief during dormancy making treatment longer and more difficult).

Each model has its own merit, and will work in specific conditions. But we have to develop contingent conditions under which one or the other model will work. There are other challenges in translational research in a culturally, ethnically and biologically diverse country like India. Given differences in food and lifestyle habits, the complementary conditions under which a given treatment works better or worse is often not studied. Huge data of tens of thousands of patients visiting many large hospitals daily in different hospitals has never been analysed. Obviously, we will never have contingent models till we start analysing big data urgently and make translation models more participative, open and networked with strong participation of social scientists.

How do we identify user needs? There are many shortcuts methods very popular among the technologists. Designers, problem solvers and scientists will spend millions and decades in doing research on solving problems. But they will spend only pennies and few days or weeks in understanding the user context, needs and strengths. Designing long term viable solutions require sufficient patience and rigour in defining the needs, prioritising them anticipatively and then developing a research plan. It is not uncommon that different scholars define priorities from their vantage point of view only. A common error in translational research.

Very rarely we study people who don’t suffer from a problem even when all conditions favouring the existence of problem prevail in the given situation. In any distribution, why focus on only one tail. If we study average decline in malnutrition exists among children, there could be several patterns in the distribution of decline, stagnancy and enhancement in some locations. Further, some areas may not have this problem either at all or may have at a very low level. The decline may be higher in areas where the initial level was low and lesser where the level was high. positive devionace is essence. why not encourage 'eviant research' . Each of this situation requires different public policy interventions with or without additional research.

But if policy makers are used to studying only average trends, and have no time for granular analysis using data mining and analytic approaches, then lack of progress on these vital problems is not surprising


How do we transform technology education: ranking, relevance and global respect

There is a widespread concern that while on one hand, we want to build institutions of high ranking globally (according to criteria developed by ranking institutions), on the other we don’t care if high rank globally doesn’t translate to high social, industrial and ecological connect locally. This is paradoxical. Actually, both can be achieved together without making a trade-off. The assumption that more money leads to a higher rank or quality also needs to be tested by using data already available.

If we do a survey of major industrial clusters as well as agriculture, health and transportation sectors and ask them how many technologies developed nationally were used by them in the last 10-15 years leading to their competitive edge, we might get some estimate of utilization of technologies sectorally. In the agriculture sector, of course, there are thousands of varieties and other technologies which find the application at farm level. In Health, vaccines and some other solutions might have been diffused widely, besides many health practices through Asha workers. However, if we look at clusters of auto parts, machine tools, ceramics, brassware and so on, will we find the equally widespread use of domestically produced technologies?

There could be at least five reasons: a) technologies developed by CSIR labs, IITs, IISERS, tech universities and other institutions are available but because of some translational or communication bottlenecks, these are not reaching enough users; b) some technologies have indeed reached, such as CFTRI tech for making powder our of buffalo milk (without which white revolution would not have come about), or NCL technology for low pressure membrane which could be fitted in hand-pumps, but these have not provided a piggybacking system for other technologies; c) the needs of the small industries are not being put on the agenda of tech students and faculty (see results of an excrement with GTU at some years ago) and d) the problems don’t pose enough technological challenge to high tech institutions so that they fail to get enough attention, and e) the conversion of proof of concept solutions developed by students are not supported by industry clusters to become products, in fact, some will argue that the clusters don’t demand new solutions.

Now, these problems cannot be addressed merely by throwing a lot of money at very few institutions. I am not against supporting IITs, BITS and IISC. These are jewels in Indian crown and deserve all the support. But will they do something different to address the needs of the small manufacturing sector which may increase jobs and also social welfare? At the same time, they should publish papers on this translational action research in reputed journals and share lessons, and raise their reputation. Many new insights and pedagogies might also evolve.

Imagine, if the Indian government had decided in 1999 (during NDA-1 government) that grassroots innovations do not figure in the index of innovation ranking by WIPO and thus need not be supported. Then setting up National Innovation Foundation, proposed by SRISTI to scale up an indigenous model of GIAN through the Honey Bee Network would not have been possible.

Should western ranking frameworks and parameters determine our national ranking, resource allocation and policies for the pursuit of excellence, social relevance and inclusive institutions? It is well known that autonomy by itself contributes a great deal towards the emergence of excellence but then why should that be taken away by imposing more and more conditions on the way various institutions will work in future. Some institutions have started asking faculty to sign when they come or go. The pursuit of excellence requires trusting the teams, monitoring outputs and not inputs and supporting achievers in different disciplines and groups. Not all departments are equally good in all institutions. Should not we rank departments on the basis of well-recognised parameters and then support an outstanding department in a low ranking institution if the case is so?

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Reducing cost and promoting innovations to improve farmer incomes sustainably

A great deal is being talked about so-called zero budget farming these days. In a way, it is good that what our open source database on farmers’ cost-reducing innovations could not achieve during the last thirty years, at a large scale, it is beginning to happen. But less chemical inputs mean, more time and labour by the farmer and his family. Not less. This labour is not free and thus there is nothing which can really be called as Zero Budget farming. The Honey Bee Newsletter has published thousands of natural farming practices developed by the farmers in water conservation, diversified farming, herbal and agronomic ways of pest control, making growth promoters etc.
The entire database was handed over to the ministry of agriculture several years ago with a request to share it widely through kisan call centres to farmers. It is accessible with a link to at Unless we share it widely through KVKs, have on-farm trials, invite some of these farmers for discussion with other farmers, how will farmers reduce their cost and improve income. In a large country like ours, we should use pluralistic, multi-pronged approach rather than going by fads of the day. The Vriksh Ayurveda and many other texts are a testimony to the fact that the tradition of experimenting with natural or non-synesthetic chemical farming is thousands of years old. With changes in cropping patterns, climatic condition, land use practices, pest population dynamics, resistance due to excessive chemical input use, excessive water use etc., farmers will have to develop a habit of location-specific experiments to develop, refine and diffuse proven practices.
Anything to the contrary is unlikely to sustain. Nature doesn’t accept uniformity for long. The intercropping trials will need to evolve different ratios of crops in different regions. At some places, the probability of early rain is high while in some other, late rain may be more probable. The ratio of different crops cannot be constant. I am extremely happy that mixed and inter-crop are being revised. That was a very viable way of breaking pest resistance and resurgence. But by not growing refugia (four rows of non-bt cotton varieties around Bt-cotton) in almost all the fields, we are inviting disaster. It is man-made disaster abetted by the policymakers and the private sector.
Some of the steps that are warranted urgently are: in situ water conservation through not just fam ponds but also various check dams is a must. The success of agricultural revival in Andhra is in so small measure due to its ambitious target of 250,000 farm ponds followed by Jharkhand and Karnataka both having more than 100, 000 farm ponds ( The role of integrated Pest management (IPM ) in agriculture is well known and yet state after state have grossly neglected this time tested practice under the pressure of chemical pesticide lobby. The practices given at public platform also neglect the low-cost farming practices ( ) though the same platform has Honey Bee Network practices shared by SRISTI.
We need to take a hard look at the current policy mix and reduce farmers distress by engaging with them to reduce excessive water use, follow IPM and in due course avoid chemical pesticides altogether, promote mixed and inter-cropping evolved through location-specific experiments and trials. To claim that this is a new discovery is not very audacious but also not very respectful to the decades of farmers experiments and innovations shared by the Network without any government support. Let every KVK use this database, improve upon it, critique it, reject what doesn’t work and contribute what they have improved. That kind of partnership between scientists and the creative and innovative farmer is the need of the hour. It is this partnership that we will celebrate at fourth International Conference on Creativity and Innovation at Grassroots, Jan 28-30, 2019 organised by the Honey Bee Network at IIMA in collaboration with CMA, RJMCEI, IIMA , UNESCAP, UNICEF, TASS< NABARD, CSIR etc., Let us be humble and pay tribute to the creativity and innovative culture at grassroots and hope that coming year will see greater blending of formal and informal science and technology in various sectors. will also have a very large participation of innovative teachers supported by Indian Institute of Teachers Education, GCERT, and other institutions besides of course RJMCEI. There will also be an exhibition of innovation and the best ideas selected through a countrywide campaign called as Honey Bee Network Creative and Inclusive Innovation Award ( HBN CRIIA) will be recognized at ICCIG.ORG
The las date for creative ideas Is Jan 18, 2015, and anyone can submit an idea at Looking forward to recognising some of you through these awards on Jan 28, 2019, at at IIMA.
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your idea can get you a chance to present it at IIMA at
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Do you have any Creative & Innovative Idea or Traditional Knowledge practice which solve day to day life problems faced by us, animals or environment?

Submit your ideas, innovations & prototypes, please visit:

Or directly submit via Google form:
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Can probiotics fend off mood disorders? It’s too early to say with scientific certainty, but a new study by CU Boulder researchers suggests that one particular beneficial bacteria can have long-lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, making it…
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Why cannot there be a consensus on major farm sector reforms-1? A vain hope……

There are bound to be political turns and twists in a democracy and that is an essential part of the freedoms we enjoy. A time for consensual politics is ahead of us. No one ideology or political belief system can discover all the solutions for the future. To identify all thinkers and researchers with any particular party political ideology just because they may have participated in the national discourse on development during that rein is not a model of viable politics. Nobody suffers more from such exclusion than the people whose interest warrants pluralistic and inclusive dialogue. Having said that and knowing that this advice has been ignored in the past and may be ignored in the future too, let me make some suggestions for agricultural sector first.

Recently, we had the same familiar spectre of onion prices ruling very low. The police response was expanding export incentives, which in the short run might help. But it is unlikely to help farmers a great deal, yes, the traders would benefit much more, as it is the case always. What could have government done: in situ value addition, something I have been pleading for more than a decade. There are at least three ways of doing it: a) farmERS ( farmer emergency response system) , portable value adding machines are taken to glut sites, and vegetable/fruits are processed, or dried into powder and put on sale online for global buyers; farmers can take powder after paying a token amount of processing fees ( it can be subsidized); b) private traders are encouraged to buy and store in government warehouses, c) employees of private and public sector organizations are advanced interest free loan to buy such a produce at concessional price (it will be far lesser than they pay in the market). Which political ideology will come in the way of this support system? One can also advise farmers to get out of cyclical behaviour of higher acreage after a year of high price and then low price due to excessive production.

Similarly, let us take the recent agitations by farmers organizations and movements on the implementation of Swaminathan committee paradoxical recommendation of fifty percent higher price over cost. If this is indeed implemented, it will be recipe for disaster. I am saying this despite my highest regards for the wisdom of Dr Swaminathan. But in this case, let us look at the implication of this recommendation being implemented: farmers will have no incentive to reduce cost, they will continue with excessive use of water, chemical fertilizer and pesticides. If the water table goes down, so be it. If small farmers cannot deepen well and thus become dry famers, so what. If the soil gets spoiled, and pests become resistant, who cares.

We need to understand that crops need moisture, not water. There ought to be a massive program of drip irrigation, let money spent on loan waiver be used to provide long term solution for drip irrigation to majority of the farmers. This will provide long term relief to farmers, reduce their cost, conserve water and reduce pest attack, and also increase productivity. It will save the cost and quantity of fertilizer also because of fertigation (fertiliser mixed with water will be needed in much smaller quantity). One can also increase use of liquid organic fertilizer which is minimal today. Similarly, massive program, of biocontrol and IPM (integrated pest management needs to be launched). The crop rotations need to be modified, mixed farming needs encouragement, border crop should be grown for biocontrol.

Likewise, the potential of livestock including poultry in generating jobs and income remains always obscure in the excessive discussion on crop-based price politics. Studies have shown several decades ago that poverty reach down impact of investment in livestock economy is much higher than in land-based interventions. The ownership of livestock, as a seminal work by late prof Vyas had shown, is much less skewed than land ownership. In a CMA study on household economy , I had found that value of small ruminants owned by landless and small farmers was higher than the ones owned by medium and large farmers showing them to be a more efficient producer than the rest. Still, in almost all farmer agitations, the voice of landless workers remains muted, I hope I am not blamed because of my advocacy for them.

Time has come to take a hard look at distorted priorities for farm sector and eschew short-term measures like loan waivers and focus on long-term in situ water conservation as done so well in Saurashtra), in situ value addition, and direct marketing by farmers to consumers in every city by providing open spaces to them. Loans should have been rescheduled, and rehabilitation finance should have been provided urgently. Strong incentives could have been given for premature repayment. Those who never get loans are the poorest people and need urgent inclusion. I know, such measures will not win me any support by the majority but then my job is not to be populist but argue for longer-term sustainability of Indian farming systems. I am not sure; we are concerned with it enough yet.
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Liyan Zhang , Bian Cuilan and Li Shumao*

Country China

Title Greenhouse Cucumber Production: Enriching the Chinese Vegetable Basket

Details easonality of vegetables poses problems for both the consumers and the producers. And add to this the problem of the changing climate pattern which makes food security or more precisely nutrient security a major concern worldwide. Advanced greenhouse technologies like vertical farming, hydroponics, aeroponics have been devised for the purpose. Growing plants in controlled environment (and not greenhouse in the strict sense) have existed since the Roman era1, followed by the Han and Tang dynasties of China. The area under greenhouse cultivation in China has grown from 9,180 ha in 1981 to 1,397,311 in 1995 and 1,963,000 in 20022. Hence, it would be interesting to study the evolution, diffusion and customization by different farmers who are often perceived as just the receiver of technologies devised by the formal institutions. This story, is about farmers as innovators, fabricators, technology providers, and the co-operation and collaboration among them. It is a case of lateral learning where educational, research or governmental institutions make much less contribution. The beginning The story begins with the modification of greenhouse technology by a group of farmers in Wa Fangdian, Liaoning Province. Till the late 1970�s the greenhouses were heated by using coal as fuel, but then China faced coal crisis (and after that the policy on coal mining was changed). It became difficult for the farmers to maintain the greenhouses. This was the time when the idea of using plastic films to build greenhouses was introduced. And, in 1979, Qin Wanshu, from Wa Fangdian started making a greenhouse using plastic films. He was born in Zhang Shanzui production brigade (farming units in China, disbanded during 1982-1985) in 1920. The smallest units were called vegetable growing groups under a production team in a village. These teams were further grouped under production brigade under a commune. Though good at abacus calculations, he had to discontinue school after only three years of schooling. In the 1950s he worked as an accountant in Zhenjiao commune (later replaced by Gandian community), from 1961 to 1969 he continued as accountant in Zhang Sanzui production brigade and later worked as the head of Zhu Feng production brigade. Towards a breakthrough After his retirement around early 1979, he started working as a vegetable growing technician and guided the two vegetable growing groups in the west production team under Zhang Shanzui production brigade. He witnessed the change in the greenhouse technology from glass greenhouses of 1960s to tunnel greenhouses of 1970s. Glass was state controlled in that period and every year only one of the eight groups in the brigade could get it. Qin thought of replacing glass with plastic films which he could try only when he got time from his official duties. When he was serving in Zhu Feng production brigade, Qin visited Shangdong Province in Dalian (previously called Lushun). After several visits he got a chance to explore different greenhouse technologies. These learning trips were organised by the Zhenjiao commune. In one of his visits to Dalian, he saw farmers using stoves to raise the temperature of the greenhouse. The farmers were growing cucumbers and in spite of low yield they could earn profits as they got the off-season advantage. But the drawback with the method was that only the air column was heated up. He reasoned that if by some means the soil could be warmed up then better production could be possible. He thought of advising the two groups under him to start cultivating cucumbers. But then, he could not risk the farmers� income. To experiment his ideas, he needed time and space. Around this time in early eighties, he started making a greenhouse in the backyard with the help of his family members. As he had previously seen farmers earning a fair amount from cucumbers, he also decided to grow cucumbers. Qin�s house was east facing situated on the roadside. The first greenhouse he made had a back wall with base 1.5 m wide and top was 70-80 cm. Two gables (triangular roof) were built, and bamboo pillars were erected a 3.6 m apart, the structure was tied by iron wires. And then the structure was covered by plastic films. The films were only 1.5 m wide, so he stuck two sheets by ironing the borders to increase the width. The shape of the greenhouse was similar to the glass greenhouses at the brigade, though Qin�s were higher (two meter high with a span of six meter and length of 20 m and the brigade�s were 1.5 m high with a span of four meter), easy to build (could be built in two hrs compared to the glass ones which took months), and it was easier to clear the snow from the plastic greenhouses. He sowed crop in January in 1980 so that he could reap crop around the Chinese Lunar New Year when there was a special demand for the vegetable. To keep the temperature warm, during the night, Qin put light bulbs over the seedling beds. Further, he took out the electric heating lines from the electric mattresses at home and buried them under the soil, so that he could keep the soil warm as well. Though, the yield was not very high, but the �off season� cucumber fetched a good price. In the same year, Qin tried grafting on cold-resistant roots. From his contacts in Yunan province, he learnt the art of engrafting cucumber with black seed pumpkin had several advantages like disease and cold resistance leading to higher yield. The local vegetable seed seller helped him to procure the seeds of black seed pumpkin variety. Charged by the success of film greenhouses, the two vegetable growing groups, whom Qin assisted previously, replaced the glass greenhouses with film ones, applied the process of engrafting and preponed the time of seedling growth to December. The first crop was reaped in late March and early April. Another beginning at another place, another time Qin was in his 60s when he had started working on his own greenhouse. He suffered severely from tracheal infections in the early 1980s and hence, he couldn�t carry on further research on his greenhouse. However, in 1983, two farmers Tao Yonghua and Li Yongquin from Tao Tun (which is about one km away from Zhang Shanzui) started working on the greenhouse concepts and succeeded in 1985. Tao Yonghua, born in 1946, could study only up to his primary education as his family was classified as landlord, according to the classification by the Chinese communist party. The chances of getting admission in colleges, armed forces, administrative posts or even getting a good match in marriage, etc., depended on the category one was placed in. Hence, in 1966 when the education committee didn�t allow him to carry on with his education, he returned to his village and started farming. In 1969, he advanced the sowing time of green onion from early September to early August. With output around 9000 kg per mu (0.15 ha), he obtained valuable experience so as to apply for the post of agricultural technician in production brigade. Li was six years younger to Tao and was a junior high school graduate. He carried out a series of experiments on breeding of high yielding cucumber seeds. Being neighbours, Tao and Li could discuss their problems and look for solutions. The major improvements done by Tao were increasing the height of the greenhouse and lowering the windows. He had observed earlier that it was transparent through the front windows and obscure through the slope at the top. And the plants closer to the windows had better growth. He reduced the front window to 80 cm from 110 cm and raised the ridges to 260 cm from 220 cm, keeping the span as 7 m which increased the slope of the film and improved the function of spectral absorbance. With these modifications, cucumber started yielding in 2.5 months only. Encouraged by experimental success, he advised lifting the window to 90 cm while building a greenhouse in Shandong which was located at a lower latitude and had five degree higher temperature. Scientists begin to learn from Tao In 1984, Tao�s greenhouse was torn down due to land expropriation for road building. He built another one later. Li�s was sold to a farmer and he built another in the east of the village. In 1985, they began to use non-dripping film to build the greenhouse and cover it with double layers of straw curtains to retain the heat. The sowing time was advanced to November, and the first harvesting was done during the Chinese New Year, which fetched the farmers a good amount of money owing to higher demand in the festive season. Once, Tao, an expert in the field was called by The Agricultural Administrative Bureau of Qinhe to share his view on the parabolic curve greenhouse which was proposed by two professors of Shandong Agriculture University. Tao said that though parabolic curved greenhouse could give more space; it was not good for vegetable cultivation. To explain, he asked a simple question, �If there are two rooms of 20 m with respective height of five meters and three meters, then which room will have higher temperature? The authorities got their answer! And a research done later proved Tao�s conviction. Though he lacked formal education, the scientist in him was vigilant and observant. Wherever Tao was called to advice for greenhouse, he used to carry a compass with him. Further, the experts advised farmers that to exploit the maximum efficiency of the incident spectrum (the sun light falling on the roof), the greenhouse in Wa Fangdian should be facing south east rather than south west (at that time they faced south). Tao differed by saying that they should be facing five to ten degrees west. His reason was that the highest diurnal temperature was reached at 1330 hours and if at that time, the angle of incidence could be structured to fall at 90 degrees, then it should maximise the penetration of light in the greenhouse. He had also observed that the leaves drooped if the night temperature fell below ten degrees. He reasoned that lower temperature during the night affected the process of water and nutrient intake in cucumber roots. At day break, with faster evaporation, the leaf cells lost turgidity making them droopy. He concluded that optimal temperature for fruit bearing was 35 degrees during the day and not less than nine degrees during the night. This proved that his innovations were not serendipitous but based on scientific observations, made without a formal degree in plant physiology. His greenhouse was his laboratory! Tao was invited to the neighbouring villages to diffuse his ideas. Though Tao was kicked out of his job when people had learnt the techniques well, he did not hesitate to help others. If that is the way, the world would treat the selfless innovators who go out of their way to help others then this might be one of the reasons why IPR and patents are the talk of the day. We at HBN and at CHIN pay our tribute to such innovators who selflessly give away their expertise! The cascading effects, the trails! In 1988, a vegetable vendor named Wang Xinmin from San Yuanzhu village of Shandong village used to buy cucumbers from Tao tun and sell in his village. This fetched him good profits, since the farmers of San Yuanzhu village did not know the art of greenhouse cucumber cultivation. Wang Leyi the party secretary of the village asked Wang to bring technicians from Tao tun who would teach them the art. Tao was the obvious choice owing to his proven expertise in the field. But he could not go, owing to his mother�s illness. Moreover, he was being asked to do only two greenhouses there which was not a fair deal for his time and efforts. However, another farmer called Han Yongshan, though he was not that well equipped with the intricacies of the technology, agreed to go there. Fortunately, the natural conditions in Shouguang were much more favourable than Wa Fangdian. Han helped farmers to build 17 greenhouses in 1989. And a rewarding harvest was achieved. In 1990, a team was organised to popularise winter production of cucumbers, and Han Yongshan and Wang Leyi became the technical supervisors. Han shifted his family to Shouguang where he was given a house and 30,000 yuan as an honorarium for his service. He passed away in 1992 at the age of 42. The journey forth was carried on tirelessly by Wang Leyi and his team. Wang Leyi, born in 1941, had studied up to primary school only. He was the deputy in the 15th, 16th and 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). He took the post of party secretary of the village in 1978, after a surgical operation. He was committed to the popularisation of greenhouse cucumber production which he believed could increase the income of the farmers. Wang�s team went to the northern part of Xinjiang, Gansu and south-western part of inner Mongolia to spread the technology. Wang Leyi was also helped by his elder brother, Wang Lequan, who was serving as the deputy governor of Shangdong province and later became the party secretary of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Though articles mentioning his contribution to the cause could not be traced, still it cannot be ignored. Institutional interventions did help in creating a pull for technological innovation here. Local government helped in establishing 30 large specialized markets and 40 big food process enterprises. It extended the supply of materials for constructing greenhouses to various villages and towns (�WU Guisheng, TU Junb�and GU Shulin, 2003, downloaded on December 30, 2010). Particularly in Shouguang province, the government policies helped to spread the technology faster than in Wa Fangdian where the technology was born. But here, one may notice, that the idea was born due to the institutional inefficiencies; the situation of tight supply of glass and rising price of coal required shift in the building material. Though much of the changes in architectural design took place through farmers� ingenuinity, Wa Fangdian experience illustrates the merit of farmer to farmer learning while Shandong adds to our understanding of the favourable public institutions in diffusion of farmers� innovations.

Volume No. Honey Bee, 21 (4), 10 to 11, 2010
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