Earlier this year I wrote two concept notes, Concept Note: Co-designing A Biodiversity Credit Toolkit and Concept Note: The Tapi Forest Garden describing utopias (or possibly dystopias) that could result from pursuing agroforestry practices in the context of SEWA’s cooperatives. These concept notes were somewhat colonial in nature, implying the imposition of epistemologies and economic models of distant cultures – in the first case, that of settler capitalism and models of global financial markets, and in the second, ideas derived from distant Indigenous cultures which have only been validated in an individualistic context in very different ecologies.

In practice the ideas behind these notes could not be achieved in any schematised, directed way, not only because they are couched in terms of top-down, goal-directed terms imported from other cultures, but especially in the case of the first note, the evidence in favour of them could not be mustered in a form acceptable to the establishment of capital markets. Two recent review papers, Evidence for the impacts of agroforestry on agricultural productivity, ecosystem services, and human well-being in high-income countries: a systematic map protocol (Brown et al 2018), and The impacts of agroforestry on agricultural productivity,ecosystem services, and human well‐being in low‐and middle‐income countries: An evidence and gap map (Miller at al 2019) report that despite 

Without more reliable evidence on intervention pathways and impacts, agroforestry risks further marginalization, thereby under-mining progress on broader development and sustainability goals

and

the major finding is that there is a near absolute gap inevidence on the effects of the agroforestry interventions

If the evidence cannot be mustered given the resources of the global academic community applied to large, homogenous areas under regular land management practices, it will be still harder to muster in the context of Megha’s cooperatives where the majority of members have highly diverse land holdings under 1 hectare in size (reported in ITfC’s September 2022 Baseline Report)

Amit Roy has recently presented a 2-year development plan for Kheda and Megha on behalf of the Federation’s research team, in which is proposed the development, as part of the KSK (Farmer Facilitation Centre) “phygital” model, an Agricultural Knowledge Data Bank, developed by and on behalf of the membership.

Agricultural Knowledge Data Bank

The goals behind these notes cannot be achieved any faster than the agricultural knowledge databank is bootstrapped from the knowledge and experience of the membership, and cast in terms of an indigenous data technology whose processes and components can be fully owned by the membership. The work of designing and building the databank is now underway, assisted by the CIFAR Solutions Network and its wider network of expertise — ensuring that the Federation’s core values of self-determination and self-reliance are respected, as well as more detailed cultural sensitivities — for example, in field notes assembled by Ranjitha Kumar and Viraj Samir Desai of ItFC it is reported that amongst individual villages of Vyara, cultural and caste-based sensitivities imply fine-grained policies for censoring and disseminating agricultural knowledge – they report:

In Dhupi, one of the women said that people from other villages would take information from us no problem but if they knew which village we are from they would not give us information or knowledge if we asked for it. Even disclosing their location would be a caste / class identifier which can engender structural violence in a data co-operative, and could even lead to physical violence.

Only through a self-directed, self-governing and inclusive agricultural data community system sensitive to such cultural issues can we approach systems which seek to liberate the benefits of agroforestry in support of sustainable development goals such as climate resilience, promotion of biodiversity and soil health, as well as ensuring a stable and continuous livelihood to those involved.

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