February 27, 2013

Fieldwork in Bihar, once again

I spent the past 9 days in the state of Bihar to complete the first leg of my fieldwork in India. Now, I'm doing what I would call "fieldwork-lite (TM)," i.e. I am by no means calling my work ethnography or anthropology. But, a more positive way to put it is that I'm getting a "snapshot" perspective of different actors in India's agricultural research system. So I spent the week divided up into visiting Bioversity's field sites (first 2 days; more about their field trials here from my previous visit); interviewing agricultural scientists from the regional research station and university; visiting CIMMYT's field trials for climate adaptation; interviewing farmers; and, in a true act of participatory research, drinking beer and arguing about science with agricultural scientists. So all in all I was very pleased with the progress I have made this week, and I had a good time and some wonderful hosts at the guesthouse I stayed at. It was a nice change to be able to walk outside and smell things growing, rather than things decaying.

I don't really want to say too much about my interviews because they are confidential, but what I will say is that I think the scientist interviews went well; I learned a lot, and I think I have some good qualitative data that I can draw from for my analysis. I got a diversity of opinions and hit on some "controversial" topics, which to a social scientist is always fun. The farmer interviews were more challenging, for a variety of reasons, but I'm still glad that I did them. It was especially interesting to me that the farmers who I interviewed were pretty marginal-- they were growing fairly old seeds that were released in say 1977 or 1995 (but still modern varieties)-- and they had no contact with agricultural extension. I read this article today and I would say it definitely applies; they don't have access to any scientific consultants and are extremely resource-poor. Although they have grown the Green Revolution wheats, they adopt only parts of the technology packages.

This week and next I plan on clocking some time in the library so that I can start to get more serious about my historical work. Although the interviews are important, I think that the majority of my data will come from my archival sources. I have a lot of ideas brewing, but I will need something solid to base my research on.

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