Institutional History of Watershed Research: The evolution of ICRISAT’s work on Natural Resources in India
In recent years international agricultural research centres had to respond to changed mandates with a more explicit focus on poverty reduction and environmental sustainability from an earlier focus on improved agricultural productivity. Natural resource management (NRM) research has been an important area that has witnessed several institutional changes within the CGIAR system for the fulfillments of these goals. More research centres have sought and promoted innovations through concepts such as participatory research, partnerships and alternatives to the transfer of technology approach. This research study undertaken for ICRISAT uses institutional history as a tool to promote institutional learning and change. The study traces the evolution of the watershed work at ICRISAT arguing that the present activities need to be seen as part of a large narrative of several innovations, not all of them successful, by scientists over a thirty year period. It demonstrates that research managers in the CG system have not adequately accessed the institutional innovations of its own scientists in facilitating changes under newer mandates. By tracing the various ups and downs of ICRISAT’s thirty-year involvement in NRM research, the study points to the need for greater sensitivity in research design towards institutional constraints that prevent faster learning and the need for evolving mechanisms to enable real time learning in projects.