SRITRI & The Honeybee Network : collecting Inventions by the Poor

Aug 2011 by Janhvi Johorey

SRITRI & The Honeybee Network : collecting Inventions by the Poor

For the last seventeen years the Honeybee Network and Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) have been scouting innovations by farmers, artisans, women, etc. at the grassroots level.Gujarat Grassroots Innovations Augmentation Network (GIAN) scales up innovations, from the Honey Bee database of innovations, through value additions in innovations to sustain creativity and ethics of experimentation. GIAN was conceived at the International Conference on Creativity and Innovation at Grassroots (ICCIG), jointly organized by IIM Ahmedabad and SRISTI.

The Honey Bee database of 10,000 innovations, collected and documented by SRISTI, would be part of the National Register of Innovations to be managed and supported by NIF.

The Honey Bee Network addresses one of the major impediments to realizing the innovative potential of Indian communities: the lack of an efficient feedback system. Unlike the more developed segments of urban society, the creativity of knowledge-rich peoples in rural and isolated areas goes largely unseen because they lack the necessary channels of sharing their ideas with the wider polity. By providing publicly available access points (e.g. kiosks) in remote villages throughout India, the Honey Bee Network affords these geographically disadvantaged peoples an opportunity to share their creations and ideas with their peers in other parts of the country and the global community.

Engaging Encounters

Organized by SRISTI, the Shodhyatras are eight to ten day treks to remote villages to tap into the innovative spirit of local experts. The objective of these village-level meetings is to gain a better understanding of the many ways that isolated community members have contributed social and economic development, while honoring outstanding people for their creativity. Since 1998, they have proved to be an invaluable mechanism for the creation of sustainable social networks and innovation. For instance, in one village some elderly women organized a friendly competition to identify women who could cook the best using uncultivated plants. In another contest, children competed for prizes and certificates for innovative ways to address the issue of biodiversity. The Shodhyatras serve as a way to showcase and cultivate indigenous human capital, while also engaging remote communities in a participatory development process.


Beyond India

Although SRISTI continues to provide institutional support, the Honey Been Network’s strength lies in its network of volunteers from over 77 countries around the world. Using newsletters based on local language and cultural inputs, volunteers throughout the world help to cultivate the knowledge and creativity of marginalized societies. By 2000, the Honey Bee database contained over 12,000 entries of innovations. Since the NIF and Honey Bee workers began organizing national competitions for innovations, the database has grown significantly and now contains over 20,000 examples of grassroots innovations and traditional knowledge in NIF and SRISTI database.


Goals and challenges

While the project designers, which include, inter alia, SRISTI, GIAN, NIF and IIMA, have laid out a variety of goals for KnowNet-Grin, of which the following warrant specific mention:

- The creation of an electronic network of innovators linked by village-based kiosks;

- Encourage innovators to share ideas;

- Reduce the feedback loop between users and innovators;

- Bridge the gap between formal and informal innovation;

- Provide a virtual platform for building a value chain of research and development support.

Despite its vision, the project faces many challenges. From identifying ways to make the Network relevant to the largely illiterate rural population to the lack of incentives to participate in new knowledge creation and the inadequate number of women and other marginalized groups involved in grassroots innovation, KnowNet-Grin faces an uphill battle as it seeks to establish close contacts between innovators, investors and entrepreneurs. However, continued research in the areas of local language standardization, universal interfaces for village kiosks and multimedia-based education promises to strengthen the sustainability of KnowNet-Grin. In phase two, the project hopes to expand the Network to Africa and South America, eventually seeding all markets of the world with Honey Bee kiosks.


As one of the country’s most innovative grassroots programmes, Honey Bee, and its KnowNet-Grin electronic network, promises to cultivate and nurture the creative and entrepreneurial sprit of grassroots innovation at the community level. Moreover, the creation of an electronic knowledge network that effectively addresses the cultural, societal and linguistic issues, while providing a link to the global information network via kiosks, ensures the cross cultural exchange of innovations and traditional knowledge towards solutions for sustainable development. By tapping into the innovative potential of society, this grassroots programme provides a sustainable mechanism for helping India become a knowledge producer in the global information society. Additionally, “scouting” for innovative ideas at the community level allows Honey Bee workers to capture extraordinary work done by ordinary people throughout India and other parts of the world.

Full article @


“Even after eight hours of walking, and three village meetings the 55 year old professor keeps striding out, talking and pointing left and right. While his companions follow silent. “Many inventors are shy” he says, “they will only come up to us if they recognise we belong to them, that we march like them, until our feet hurt as much as theirs.””The Gupta asks whether the village has an invention to present. Silence. He keeps asking for five minutes, pushes them, calls out “Bolo, bolo!” – Come on, tell me! Nothing. Until a young man steps up in front. Vijay Pramanik is sharing his experiment that will make Gupta rave for days: “I have cut the young plants of two different pumpkin varieties, and bound them together in a way that they could exchange each others’ saps.” The two plants flourish one month apart, as usual, but after this treatment both plants carried more fruits than before. Maybe they exchange growth-nurturing hormones, Gupta says. “This is a great discovery. An entirely new way.” Gupta convinces Pramanik to wander a long and share his findings with farmers in the next village.”
Der Spiegel Magazine



Sunda Ram Verma (age 44 years) is an innovative farmer from the arid region of Sikar district in Rajasthan. This region receives an annual rainfall of less than 25-40 cm. He belongs to a joint family of more than 35 members. All members in his family have a keen interest in experimentation in agriculture and agroforestry. His uncle has kept a record of more than 35 parameters of weather and agricultural practices. The family collectively owns 17 ha of land. After completing his education he began farming on his small family farm, foregoing 2-3 offers of jobs in the early seventies.

He has been experimenting on various techniques of dry land farming since last 15 years and has successfully developed a unique method of tree planting for dry regions.

Sunda Ram from his experience and educational training found that two phenomena, viz .i) evapo-transpiration through weeds and ii) upward movement of water due to capillary action of soil, are the major causes of water loss from the soil. If these losses are prevented then the soil can retain sufficient water for a tree even in dry regions.

In 1982-83, he conducted a systematic experiment in different types of soil to validate his observation. He measured moisture content of soil from 10 different places at different depths in each plot and found the following:

(i) In all types of soils, moisture gets lost up to the depth of 30 cm. due to evaporation irrespective of soil management practices like weeding and ploughing.

(ii) Below 30 cm, the moisture content of weed free and ploughed plot was almost twice than in a control plot.

Based on these observations he designed a plantation method for dry land regions which is opposite to what the Forest deptt. and other institutions advocate.


The Method

First of all, to prevent the rainwater runoff, the field is levelled.

Two weeks after the first rain, ploughing is carried out to remove weeds. It also helps in breaking capillaries of upper soil layer. This checks the upward capillary movement of water.

The field is ploughed again two weeks before the end of the rainy season.

The seedlings, selected for planting, are satisfactorily watered for three days in their bags. They are then planted in 60-70 cms deep pits in such a way that their root zone remains in soil layer below 30 cm. After planting, approximately one liter of water is poured in the pit and left to nature.

He has successfully grown thousands of trees of Eucalyptus, ‘Ber’ (Zizyphus spp), ‘Ardu’ (Ailanthus excelsa), Australian babul, ‘Sisam’ (Dalbergia sisoo), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Amla etc. through this technique. Trees planted by this method have survived one of the worst droughts in 1986-88.

While explaining the logic of his technique Sunda Ram says, “Plants, which survive against stress in the first two weeks after planting,will survive against any severe kind of stress in life”.

He has successfully demonstrated this technique on a plot of land given by the Forest department about 3 km away from his village. Many neighboring large farmers have adopted his method on their farm while small farmers have adopted it on the farm boundaries.

ANIL GUPTA; FOUNDER OF the ‘Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions’ (SRISTI) and the ‘Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network’

Ph.D., Management, M.Sc.(Genetics), B.Sc.(Hons), Agri.

Research and Action Interests:

Expanding global, national and local space for grassroots inventors and innovators to ensure recognition, respect and reward for them; blending excellence in formal and informal science; protection of their Intellectual Property Rights; ethical issues in conservation and prospecting of biodiversity; setting up incubators to link innovations, investments and enterprise; voluntarism, leadership for social change; socio-political transformation towards a meritocratic society; creating Knowledge Network at different levels for augmenting grassroots green innovations and build a global value chain to get the creativity its due; support to Honey Bee Network including about twenty three thousand innovations and examples of traditional knowledge from various parts of the country and rest of the world on farm and non farm sustainable technologies, energy saving and herbal aid to human, animal and plant health and special focus on women innovators.

Mission is to demonstrate the potential of knowledge rich economically poor people in taking developing societies out of the morass of mediocrity and lead these on to a path of sustainable progress.


Real Life Learning

“People in academia don’t know how much they can learn from the working people,”
Gupta emphasizes that confining education and knowledge solely to classrooms ignores a major part of the learning experience. “I have always believed that knowledge is about knowing, doing, and feeling,” he said. “If one is missing, you will have less incentive to take that knowledge and make change.”

Instead of limiting the farm workshops to environmental studies students, Gupta opened the sessions to all students, urging economics majors to learn the business side of farming from the farmers themselves and government majors to learn how agricultural policy affects the individual. “I feel like students, no matter [their] focus, need to experience [more],” Gupta said. “We need to redefine our conceptions of learning.”


Honeybee Network




* * * * * * * *NEWS ARTICLES FROM INDIA, ENGLAND, GERMANYThe Walk to Find Knowledge’, BBC article Although India is experiencing huge economic growth, it is also a place where 700 million people still live in the countryside, a world away from the nation’s newly acquired shiny image. But among this vast rural population lies a wealth of wisdom and expertise that has a value all of its own…”Professor Gupta has an engaging smile and a compelling interest in everything”

“A farmer diverts the walkers to examine his new discovery, a rogue mustard plant that produces all its seed at once, not frond by frond”

“Professor Gupta thinks that the Indian soul resides in the wisdom of the poor”

“The professor is frightened that in the rush to modernise, the wisdom of the poor will be wiped out and lost”


‘Mitticool and more’, The Hindu Business Line article about Inventions,

Think out-of-the-box. Think of the improbable. Think of a scenario where cars could run on water, refrigerators would be made of clay and washing machines powered by energy generated by human labour…


‘The Gandhi of Technology’, Der Spiegel article about the walking tours,1518,545387,00.html


“Erfindungen wie den Reisdrescher, den Dharnidhar Mahato selbst gebaut hat und jetzt präsentiert. “Es gibt schon einen Drescher zu kaufen, der mit den Füßen angetrieben wird”, erklärt Mahato. “Aber der kostet 3000 Rupien.” Sein Eigenbau kostet 500 Rupien (umgerechnet etwa zehn Euro) und kann doppelt so viel Reis verarbeiten wie der kommerzielle Drescher. “Wenn das kein Durchbruch ist”, bemerkt Gupta, “viele von euch müssen den Reis ja noch von Hand dreschen, wie vor 3000 Jahren.” Die Männer, Frauen und Kinder klatschen. Der Erfinder schaut verlegen und doch stolz in die Runde, als ihm Gupta eine Ehrenurkunde überreicht.”

“Der 55-jährige Professor schreitet auch nach acht Stunden Marsch und drei Dorfmeetings noch dozierend und gestikulierend voran, während seine Begleiter still hinter ihm hertrotten. “Viele Erfinder sind scheu”, sagt er, “sie melden sich nur, wenn sie merken, dass wir zu ihnen gehören, dass wir wie sie marschieren, dass uns die Füße so weh tun wie ihnen.”

“Dann fragt Gupta, ob das Dorf denn eine Erfindung zu bieten habe. Schweigen. Über fünf Minuten lässt er nicht locker, drängelt, ruft “Bolo, bolo!” – Sagt schon! Nichts. Bis ein junger Mann nach vorn tritt. Vijay Pramanik hat von einem Experiment zu berichten, das Gupta noch tagelang schwärmen lässt: “Ich habe die Triebe zweier verschiedener Kürbisarten eingeritzt und sie so zusammengebunden, dass sie Säfte austauschen können.” Die beiden Gewächse blühen im Abstand von einem Monat, so wie zuvor, berichtet Pramanik; nach der Behandlung trugen beide Pflanzen aber mehr Früchte als sonst. Vielleicht tauschen sie zur jeweiligen Blütezeit wachstumsfördernde Hormone über die Schnitte aus, mutmaßt Gupta. “Das ist eine großartige Entdeckung, eine völlig neue Methode in der Pflanzenzucht”, lobt er Pramanik. Gupta überredet ihn, ein Stück mitzuwandern und den Bauern im nächsten Dorf von seinem Experiment zu berichten.”


Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Comment