This profile was prepared when Jagdish Pradhan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Almost thirty years of agricultural "modernization" in India has reaped a mixed harvest. While "Green Revolution" gains in grain yields, especially, are historic, not all areas have benefited evenly, and modern agricultural systemswhich include large-scale public irrigation schemes, hybrid seeds, petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical pesticidesdon't always make more sense than traditional systems. Jagdish Pradhan has found that in arid, hilly regions, such as Kalahandi and Western Orissa, traditional community water management systems provide an economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternative that also makes these regions less vulnerable to regular droughts. Not coincidentally, these traditional water management methods depend upon types of social cooperation that can stimulate further income benefits. For example, small family farms lend themselves to low-input, high-design "organic farming methods" that can produce for premium niche markets. Jagdish uses the direct benefits and social energy that come from reclaiming a cultural patrimony to organize food production and marketing activities for this premium market.