The GWCT is well known as an organisation that promotes best practice land management founded on a sound evidence base, and we were delighted to receive funding to use our approach internationally. Dr Barbara Smith led the successful bid to the Darwin Initiative for a three-year project, Enhancing the relationship between people and pollinators in Eastern India.
The Centre for Pollination Studies (CPS) has been established at the University of Calcutta through the Darwin Initiative of the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in partnership with the Government of India's Department of Science & Technology. The Centre is a collaborative initiative between Dr Barbara Smith at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (UK) and Dr Parthiba Basu at the University of Calcutta.
The aim of the project is to create an interdisciplinary participatory research centre at Calcutta University as a flexible model that can be adapted and implemented in other regions.
The CPS focuses on pollination systems with an expectation that as the centre grows, the research will extend into other areas that contribute to the development of sustainable farming.
There are three principal aims:
- To increase understanding of native pollinators
- To improve the management of pollinators and the wider agro-ecosystem
- To improve the livelihood of subsistence farmers and contribute to a healthy agro-ecosystem through the above routes
The CPS is located in the Department of Zoology, and the foundation research is a combination of fundamental and applied pollination biology. Targeted PhD programmes and long-term monitoring will increase the understanding of native pollinator distribution and ecology. The CPS aims to be a hub for researchers, building resources and expertise to support those working in the field of agro-ecology.
The project is inherently participatory, as working together as scientists and farmers is key to solving the puzzle of best management practice. In order to develop good management for pollinators, the work must be carried out in partnership with those who will ultimately implement the management; that is, farmers and villagers. We have begun working in two regions of northeast India, and in each we have established regional field study and advice centres.
Although these have started life as field research stations, they will become the CPS regional centres where farmers can gather to exchange information with scientists and also with their peers. 'Farmer festivals' are also being held across the regions. Through a combination of farmer surveys and trialling management with farmers on their farms, we will arrive at a collective understanding of farming needs and improve management approaches for pollinators and the agro-ecosystem.
The project centre also aims to be interdisciplinary. While initiated by biologists, there are clear socio-economic aspects to the research and development. Our aim is not to have the biology, farming and economics running alongside each other but to integrate these elements to bring about true interdisciplinarity.