Framework for understanding the peoples’ knowledge systems and innovations around tree and forest management Anil K. Gupta, Prakash M. Shingi and Astad Pastakia


Their realization that poor people are not so poor that they cannot even think, and solve their problems led to a search for alternative framework for understanding peoples’ own initiatives about a decade ago.  The search was also triggered to some extent because of the dissatisfaction with the way peoples’ knowledge was accessed and interpreted.  The interaction with the people was often of extractive nature with hardly any reciprocity towards the people.  It not only prevented outsiders from gaining deeper insights about the way people conceptualised and solved their problems in a creative manner but also denied the opportunity to outsiders to participate in peoples’ own plans and perspectives about future.  The policy planners consequently ignored the potential of peoples’ creativity and developed models of development which were either patronizing, prescriptive or sometimes quite presumptuous of the needs of the people.  The scientists and technologies likewise complained about peoples’ inability to change and adopt when the externally induced technological models did not find favour with the communities and individual farmers.

It is in such a context that the philosophy of Honey Bee was born.  The role of intellectuals was defined as that of a Honey Bee.  Thus, when we collect knowledge of people, people should not feel exploited just as flowers don’t complain when Honey Bee collects pollen.  Further we should also recognize our responsibility of acknowledging what we learned from people, sharing with them the knowledge in their own language and helping people to people linkage just as honeybee pollinates the flower.  A very large database of indigenous innovations has emerged over the years.  Several workshops of innovators have been organized in different fields such as agriculture, horticulture, forestry, livestock, farm implements, etc., in collaboration with SRISTI and Honey Bee network.  This network extends to about seventy five countries around the world.

The proposed case studies on “Farmers Experimentation and Knowledge Building Processes in the Conservation, Regeneration and Use of Forest and Tree Resources” are being pursued as a part of cooperation between FAO-FTPP, SRISTI and IIMA.  These case studies will also be presented in an International Conference on Creativity and Innovations at Grassroots being organized at IIMA in January, 1997.


The Forestry and People Programme (FTPP) of FAO is working on the development of new approaches, methods and tools for increased participation of rural men and women in community forestry.  The existing gap between the research carried out by research centres and innovations processes taking place at the grassroots in the field of forestry and management, natural resources has been identified as  a major constraint to the development of appropriate technology corresponding to the needs, expectations and capacities of rural communities and farmers.

FTPP has initiated similar case studies in Latin America and Africa to document and analyse actual innovation processes in which individual farmers or group of them are actively involved.  The mid term objective is to develop strategies, approaches, methods and tools which outside institutions can use to better identify, understand and eventually support the local innovation processes as well as the dynamics of the farmers knowledge systems through experimentation, adaptation and sharing of technologies.

FTPP plans to organize a global workshop on this subject to coincide with the International Conference on Creativity and Innovations at Grassroots at IIMA.  SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) has a long experience in documenting, analysing and disseminating experiences of technological development at the grassroots and will share the insights learnt at the International Conference.

Understanding the processes of Innovation

It has been argued earlier that the barriers to scientific perception of farmers’ innovations may exist partly in the framework in which we define the process of creative change at grassroots (Gupta, 1987).  For instance, it was assumed that knowledge people have is generally, ‘traditional’ in nature.  It was also implied sometimes that the knowledge produced by the people long time ago was merely carried forward as if in a fossilized form by successive generations.  This is only partly true.  Even traditional knowledge has to be adapted to changing climatic, socio-cultural, and economic conditions.  But equally important if not more, are the contemporary innovations produced by people in the last ten-fifteen years or so.  In these innovations developed by individuals or collectives, the process, motivation, trigger and outcome of innovation can, of course, be studied much better.

That people have been able to survive in highly adverse ecological environments such as drought prone, flood prone, and coastal saline areas, etc., is a tribute to the creativity of indigenous peoples and to the local knowledge systems which have evolved over generations as well as in recent times (Gupta, 1989).  It is this knowledge that enabled them to survive by:

  1. developing risk adjusting mechanisms to negotiate the risk inherent in production systems of such areas.
  1. developing collective rationality of exercising restraint in use of scarce ecological resources and consumption of ecological commons.
  1. developing norms for conservation of biodiversity
  1. appreciating and preserving the linkages between different components of the eco system.

Coping with Scarcity and Innovation requires inventiveness just to survive.  Studies have shown that many times the innovator himself/herself may not even realize the uniqueness of the innovation/s.  Therefore, it is important in any study of innovation to recognize the role of a robust framework that enables us to look for innovations.  One such framework abstracted from Pastakia (1995) is described below:

Heuristics for Innovation

In his study on indigenous innovations, Pastakia (1995) looks at the interplay between the contextual and worldview variables in identifying and responding to the challenges or constraints or stresses.  The process through which innovators may array their thoughts, strategies, available choices and actual decisions could be captured by looking at the heuristics used by the innovators.

A heuristic could be defined as

            “a procedure for searching out a unknown goal by incremental exploration: a guiding principle which reduces the amount of search required..”

(Polya, 1972 in Bullock et. al. 1988)

Polya illustrates the concept with the following example:

“to reach the top of an unfamiliar hill in a fog, a useful heuristic would be to make every step an upward one rather than trying steps in all directions” (ibid.).

            It is to be expected that the problem-solver would make evaluations at various stages of the incremental exploration.  These would facilitate making of mid-course corrections.  Hence the guiding principles would be expected to serve two purposes a) to enable decision making in the search for new ideas/principles/concepts/materials/methods etc., and b) to serve as criteria for evaluation in order to make mid-course corrections as well as to decide about the final utility of the innovation.  The criteria for search could be different from the criteria for evaluation, or the same criteria could be used for both the purpose.  These criteria may evolve as the search progresses from one milestone to the next, since the evaluation at each milestone may have some feedback effect.

The extent to which minimum improvement is achieved in a given situation before the innovator, so to say, abandons the further search may depend upon another criteria of satisfaction.  Some people get satisfied too early just as some are perfectionists.  These criteria may not entirely be utilitarian in nature.  For example, some innovators may just like to satisfy their curiosity and leave the experiment after that.  Others encouraged by the positive results may continue but only as far as they see the need.  This need may be influenced by the interplay between induced change and the nature’s capacity to recuperate or restore the vitality.  For instance, in the case of plant protection, an innovator knowing the threshold levels within which the pests can be controlled by the predators, may control only to bring the population below threshold level.  In the case of tree based systems, an innovation of growing banana plant between four trees of arecanut in northern Bangladesh by women might provide a solution to the problem of water stress for the trees just sufficient to keep them alive in the winter season.  The suckers of banana stores the moisture during monsoon season and release it to the roots of arecanut in the winter season.  Another innovator, viz., Bhaskarbhai used two technologies to regulate the water requirement of the agro-horticultural system.  For crops, he uses croton plant to assess the moisture stress within the top layers of the soil.  For trees, he gave water in alternate furrows in the orchard.  He also applied manure to these furrows at about 15-20 feet distance from  the trees depending upon the tree age.  The idea was that trees should train the roots to go near the moisture rather than align moisture to be provided near the tree base.  The root network so created bore the stress better and utilized moisture more sparingly (less than 10 per cent of the normally irrigated tree farms).

The need in each case was defined differently and accordingly was responded through different innovations.

Another category of models derived from the industrial context, is the decision model, in which the new product development process is broken down into a number of decisions.  The process is divided into several stages, separated by evaluation points.  These models are basically an extension of the activity stage models (Leenders and Janzen, 1994).

Such static and linear models offer little guidelines for management practice, as they fail to uncover the latent aspects of the process.   As Leenders and Janszen (1994) pointed out,

            “In practice, the innovation process is usually not so rational and ordered, nor is it a black box.  In many industries, innovations tend to be non-linear and opportunistic, initiated by luck, opportunism and trial and error.”

Thus it would be more appropriate to identify the key processes in innovation rather than the stages.  They key processes identified are, a) realization of the need for change, b) search for solution ideas and or materials/methods, c) trial and experimentation, d) evaluation, and e) validation.

As mentioned earlier, the decision criteria and evaluation criteria form an important part of a heuristic.  The criteria corresponding to four key processes of innovation are shown in the diagram (Fig. 1).  These criteria could be pragmatic or idealistic depending upon the worldview of the innovator and the context of the innovation.  A comparison of decision criteria across heuristics would show whether certain criteria discriminate between heuristics.  The criteria which discriminate between heuristics with potential to generate highly sustainable outcomes vis-à-vis moderately sustainable outcomes would be of particular interest to policy makers.

Influences on the Heuristic of Innovation

The influencing variables are of two types, contextual and worldview.

Contextual Variables:

1.         Ecological context

The Ecological context defines the range of options (natural resources) available to an innovator at the grassroots level, and must constitute an important influencing variable.  The scale at which the options are exercised may depend upon the access the innovator may have to factor-product markets (Gupta, 1981).  The access to various resources or opportunities may certainly influence the range of innovations that one could visualize.

Contextual variables have been acknowledged for their influence on the process of innovation (see review by Manimala, 1988).  However, “ecological context” has seldom been referred to even in studies on diffusion of agricultural innovation.  In a review paper on diffusion of innovation in agriculture, by Feder (1982), the ecological context was not mentioned in any of the 200 references cited (Gupta 1989).  Some of the researchers who have given this issue due consideration include Kurien (1994).  Ashby (1981) and Gartell and Gartell (1980).  Yapa (1980) has also looked at this issue, albeit from the eco-political economic viewpoint.

2.         Socio-Economic Context

The socio-economic status can be assessed at three levels I) at the innovator specific level, ii) at the level of the village/community to which the innovator belongs, and iii) at the level of networks whether kinship or otherwise of which an innovator may be a member.  The present status could be an indicator of the past achievements.  The self-image of a person of often intimately tied with the image of the community/caste to which he/she may be long.  However, there is no inevitability about this perception.

At the individual level the socio-economic status is indicative of the risk taking ability of the innovator, (though not always).  Often good ideas languish because of the absence of an economic cushion.  A higher socio-economic status may also mean greater access to resources and information.  There are studies which show that the middle class may be the most conservative compared to the poor as well as rich people.  The socio-economic status can only partly influence the range of materials, nature of socialization and therefore, the extent of exposure to outside world and consequent search for solutions.  There are individuals extremely poor such as Karimbhai who overcome their economic weakness through their ecological richness.  He is a potter and also a medicine man.  There is hardly any plant in the nearby forest which he does not know about.  Thus, being economically poor and knowledge rich, he has generated many innovative uses of trees but the irony is that his children would not aspire to emulate his role.  They don’t see any future for themselves in a role that does not generate any economic security.  And yet, this uncertainty did not prevent Karimbahi from acquiring expertise and sharing his knowledge.

Cultural differences may influence the heuristics through:

  1. differences in world-views and resultant differences in perception of problem and criteria of effectiveness.
  1. differences in the skills and knowledge base and
  1. differences in the nature of peer group, kind of feedback or reinforcement or contempt for one’s attempt to innovate.

We have come across many examples of innovations where not even the immediate neighbour of an innovator has shown interest in the innovation.  Given such a cultural context of curiosity, one should recognize the extent of self-motivation that an innovator may require.

At the social level the family and community may play an important role in either supporting, sanctioning or monitoring the activities of the innovator.  Their participation could occur right from the early stages of the innovation process or subsequently during the evaluation and validation stages.

3.         Policy Environment:

To what extent the constraints which prevent transition of an idea to initiative and an initiative to an innovation can be relaxed through a favourable policy environment.  For instance, ideas may not graduate to initiatives if the innovator oneself is inhibited, has limited risk bearing capacity, has not had exposure to alternatives or does not have a supportive peer group.  An initiative may not become innovation likewise, because the innovator may not have pursued the experiment long enough to evolve a stable or replicable improvement, or he or she may lack the capacity to absorb the potential loss from failure or may ideologically not be so dissatisfied with the status quo.

Worldview Variables

Value system of Innovator

Although change in beliefs and values has been cited as a “source of innovative ideas” (Drucker 1985), the value system of an informal innovator has never been taken as an explicit variable, with potential to influence the very process of innovation.  This is a gap in the literature that Pastakia (1995) has tried to fill[1].

The ideological orientation towards nature may range from highly idealistic to highly pragmatic, depending upon the beliefs and assumptions made about the relationships between human being and nature.  The behavioural norms attached to the normative stand taken in this regard are likely to influence the heuristics, the most.

Knowledge Base of Innovator

The knowledge base of an innovator influences his/her perception of problem as well as subsequent mental processes by which solutions are arrived at.  Knowledge base also has a deep influence on world-views (Councils, 1984).  In the study of grassroots innovators this becomes an important variable since local knowledge systems and local world-views may differ vastly from “modern” ones.

The analytical orientation of the innovator may range from highly reductionistic to highly holistic.  It is likely to also influence the cognitive processes in the process of innovation and, therefore, needs to be assessed.


A heuristic of innovation ultimately influences the crystallization of an idea, a product or recipe which we call the innovation.  In literature o n the conventional diffusion of innovation, an innovation that diffuses widely over space is considered the most successful.  However, on that test, most sustainable innovations particularly attempted by individuals would fail to be characterized as innovation at all.  The success of a heuristic could thus first be measured in terms of the innovators own perception of degree of satisfaction.  Whether an innovator has achieved satisfactorily what he or she wanted to begin with.  But, it is possible that the change attempted may be too small or insignificant, given the state of art.  In such a case, the innovation might merely be a case of improvisation.  However, there could be equally contrasting cases where an innovator is not satisfied with an improvement which outsiders may consider very significant and outstanding.  In such a case, the fact that this innovation spurs recognition or change by others may qualify it to be a characterized as a major innovation even though on the first criteria of innovators level of satisfaction it may not quality.  Another case where a heuristic becomes significant is in its uniqueness.  The satisfaction to the innovator maybe marginal and its potential for diffusion may also be limited.  However, the uniqueness of the decision flows or criteria or combinations of materials may enable institutional or formal scientists or informal innovators to try new ways of finding solutions.  To summarize, a heuristic can be assessed on the basis of (a) satisfaction of the innovator vis-à-vis outsiders, (b) wider applicability and (c) uniqueness of conceptualisation.  In some cases, the ecological implication may further add to the distinctiveness of the innovation.

Fig 1.

Socio-Ecological Process Model of Innovation

Contextual variables                                                                            Worldview dimensions

(Space, Season, Sector,                                                                                    (Ideological or analytical

Social Interactions)                                                                              orientation towards


Perception of Stress/Constraint/Opportunity

Criteria of change

Realization of need for change


Criteria for                                                                                        Resources/recipes for

evaluation                                                                                            experimentation




Assessment of satisfaction

                        Continuance                                                    Discontinuance

Commercial                                                     Non-commercial

                                    Diffusion                                 No diffusion

                         Adaptive              Constant              Unique                   Generalised

                                                Feedback/feed forward to Scientists

                                                            Yes                  No

                                            Value addition                 No value addition

                                                Evaluation through Innovators

                                                            Yes                  No

                                                         Feedback to innovators

                                                               Diffusion of value added technology

                                                Reciprocity towards innovators

                                                            Yes                  No

Socio ecological process model of innovation

As shown in figure 1 (Pastakia and Gupta, 1985), the worldview dimensions and contextual variables interact to generate certain criteria to respond to given stress.  These criteria are partly derived from the way the stress or the constraint or an opportunity is perceived by the innovator/s.  This may lead to recognition of need for a change.  In large number of cases, it does not.  One of the issues that we need to study is the condition which influences the appreciation of need for change.  Once this need has been identified, the search for solution begins.

Search could be (a) serendipitous, (b) analogous, (c) trial and error, (d) combination of luck and trial (e) conceptual transformation (f) network based (g) curiosity oriented (h) embodiment through application/folklore of existing knowledge (I) or a combination of these.  Discovery by chance is well known in literature.  But the analogous learning is less well recognized.  Discovery of formula of Benzene in the form of a snake eating its own tail in a circular fashion is one such example.  Similarly, by looking at the balance used by the vegetable vendors in which by slight movement, a pan can be unhooked.  This may help in handing over the goods to the customer.  Rather than lifting the entire balance along with the weights, vendor could just unhook the pan and give the vegetables.  An innovator looked at this process and developed an arrangement of a similar hook attached in a trolley to a lever.  By pulling the lever, the hook could be removed and the trolley would bend backward so that its contents could be easily emptied.  There are many other examples where analogous search could take place.

Similarly, sometimes innovators make a conceptual advance of an extraordinary nature.  A farmer, viz., Bhotilal Rajwadia, Dodwada village, identified a very creative use of a bush, locally called as Dhumas (Combratum ovalifolium).  This bush grows near the riverside and has very strong and long branches.  Sometime, it gives an illusion of a creeper.  Bhotilal had a problem of serious pest, viz., blister beetle in pigeon pea crop.  He developed a technology of combining the leaves of this bush with the blister beetle caught from the air to repel the pest.  About ten-twelve people stood in a row facing the windward direction.  They had the leaves of the dhumas in their shoulder bag.  They will catch blister beetle in the air and crush it with the leaves.  They moved forward with the extract so formed in their hands.  Some kind of alarm pheromones were generated which repelled the pests.

This is an entirely new way of solving problem which is unknown in the formal science.

The search strategy could also lead to embodiment of hitherto scattered knowledge.  A voluntary organization, viz., Behaviour Science Centre was working with poor farmers and pastoralists in a backward region of Gujarat.  They faced a serious problem of transporting the seedlings of Prosopis juliflora across the river for transplanting on common land.  Faced with this challenge, some people recalled that these pods of Prosopis were eaten by goat and the seeds which came out with excrete in the form of pellets germinated very well.  They suggested the collection of these pellets and transporting these across the river easily.  This innovation took place through a combination of a challenge and mobilization of an existing local knowledge for its response.

The network-based strategy is similar except that different steps in the solution may be provided by various people.  In a village in Maharashtra, people planned to celebrate the tree planting function in a manner that it would generate greater social responsibility for the protection of the same.  They realized that if sacred dimension  was added to the activity it might achieve that end.  They decided to carry the seedlings in a cradle used for god and goddesses to the site of planting.  When they were planning this activity sitting in a temple, the person pointed out that cradle could not be used for carrying the seedlings because the earth attached to the seedlings was considered impure.  A boy from a carpenter’s family was standing outside the temple listening to the discussion.  Being of lower caste, he was not allowed to enter the temple.  When he found that the people could not generate any solutions despite very involved discussion, he offered a solution.  He mentioned that he knew about an old cradle lying in somebody’s house.  He could repair it in the night and make it ready for the morning celebration.  A serious problem was solved through mobilization of ideas and initiatives in a social network fragmented as it was due to various social divisions.  There are many other cases where social networks can be very powerful vehicles for incremental innovations.

The search of any strategy would generate choices that will be evaluated according to certain criteria.  The worldview, values, ideologies as well as socio economic and ecological context could modify the criteria through which search strategies are evaluated.  Once a strategy is chosen, innovators may do experimentation and eventually validation of a technology.  This solution may or may not be continued.  Sometimes, innovators pursue experiments only to satisfy their curiosity.  However, even if the innovation is continued by the innovators it may or may not be shared with others.  And if shared, it may diffuse or not.  The diffusion could be of a technology developed originally by one innovator and adapted by others without much change.  Alternatively, a technology could undergo considerable modification step by step, from person to person or situation to situation.  Similarly, the innovation may have unique elements or may appear generalizable.

The innovator has a choice to commercialise the innovation through ecopreneurship or share it without any pecuniary advantage.  The direction in which innovation will evolve could vary depending upon the route of scaling up and feedback fro the users.

Even if an innovation diffuses locally in a village or group thereof, the scientists may not pay attention to it.  And if they take note of it, they may not acknowledge the innovators, or may not involve them in evaluating the value added technology.  The result would be that the innovators either may not be able to influence the process of blending formal and formal science or may find the value added technology out of their reach even if more efficient.

We have argued elsewhere (Gupta, 1994, 1995) that ethical responsibility of those who access biodiversity and/or knowledge around it towards the innovative communities or individuals deserves serious attention.  The sustainability of this process of innovation and its upgradation depends to a great extent on the reciprocity among various users of innovations.

Identification of Innovations

If we look at the combination of materials, methods, and uses, we can see that in case of any one unknown, the innovation can be considered worthy of attention.  For instance, a known material (say bark of neem) is used by a known method (extraction through methanol) but for an hitherto unknown purpose (say raising hairs on baldy head), then this will qualify to be an innovation which will also qualify for intellectual property protection if need be.

Figure 2


                                                Known                        Unknown







Similarly, if hitherto unknown material (gum of a particular tree) is used for a known purpose and by known method but through some value addition, it could also qualify to be a distinctive innovation.

Analysing Innovation:

Apart from the factors that socio-ecological model of innovations and value addition explained above, the process of innovation can also be analysed through understanding of three aspects of innovation i.e. materials, proportion and principles (Gupta and Patel, 1992).  Any innovation will require some materials (locally derived or externally organized), combined in a given proportion and according to some specific principles.  Let us illustrate this dimension by looking at the case of Sunda Ram of Sikar district of Rajasthan.

Growing trees in a dry region with less that ten inches of rainfall is not easy.  Most forestry programs world over recommend planting of trees before the rains.  However, the survival rate of such planting is often less than 30 per cent.  Sunda Ram, a graduate and a very innovative farmer has done an experiment on two hectares of his farm which has become an extraordinary point of reference in dry land horticulture and farm forestry.  He developed a method which is completely opposite of what forest departments world over do.  He has suggested ploughing the land after the first rain so that it helps in situ conservation of moisture through increased percolation.  Subsequently, he ploughed the land after the last rain but for a different reason.  This time the idea is to break the capillaries and conserve moisture in the soil below 10-12 inches of depth.  After this ploughing, he plants trees with a few days of artificial irrigation or sprinkling of water.

The survival rate has been found to be higher by three times i.e. as much as 80 to 90 per cent.  The cost has come down by half due to smaller pits with lesser manure.  How does it work?  The principle behind combining known materials through an unknown method for a known purpose is quite interesting.  When we plant trees just after rains, the soil is moist and the saplings tend to send roots in the upper layers of soil.  Once the soil starts drying, the seedling cannot cope with the stress.  Also in the absence of the ploughing mentioned above, the moisture in the soil is not only less but also stays for lesser period.  In the latter case, the much higher quantity of moisture remains in the soil for much longer period ensuing higher survival rate.  Since the moisture is available only in the lower layers of the soils, the tree saplings have to send the roots deep.

In this case the species may vary from place to place, the exact combination of ploughings and their depth may also vary depending upon the kind of soils.  But the principle may be diffusible more widely than the technology per se.  In some innovations, we thus suggest that what is diffused is not technology but the principle behind the same.  For analysing the potential of any innovation, we should, therefore, study only what its diffusion potential is.  It is possible that an innovation may be highly location specific but the concept or principle may be diffusible.

The technological innovations can be analysed through several alternative routes. The interface between secular and sacred consciousness of the people has not been discussed in the above model adequately.  But, as we will see next many institutional innovations reflect this blending very closely.

Institutional Innovations

Institutions are instruments of coercion.  For collective good, some norms, rules or principles are evolved often backed up by sanctions which generate certainly in behaviour of the members of the group.  Thus institutions can also be considered a means of generating assurances.  If people had no assurance about the way members of a group will behave, the quota of insurance needed for taking risks may increase a grate deal and not many innovations may take place.

Three integral features of any institution are (Gupta, 1985, 1990, Gupta and Prakash 1994):

  1. The rules determining entry and exit: the boundary of the group as well as the resource/s.  Who is in and who is out is determined by boundary rules.
  • Second category of rules deal with the resource allocation mechanisms: who gets what, when, where and when etc.

and in the compliance of these rules, conflict are likely to arise and thus

  • third category of rules deals with the conflict resolution.

            It is possible that each of three kinds of rules may be complied with partially or completely.  If the ratio of free riders (who comply only partially or none at all) to the ones who comply with rules completely is very high, the institutions may not survive, the question of sustainability may not arise.

Innovations may arise in modification of any of these rules of the approach of achieving compliance.  Let us take the case of Tukuva village in Gujarat on the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan.  In the adjoining village of Rajasthan Sachana, there existed a wasteland institution called as ‘auran’ for last several hundred years.   Auran are the lands which are not  for gods and goddesses (Gupta, 1985).  The dead wood in such aurans is not supposed to be utilized for any use by any one except for the funeral pyre purposes of those whose kith and kin cannot afford to buy the wood.  The living proof of these institutions is that one can see dead trees lying around the grass growing over them.  Obviously signifying that these trees have been lying around for long time.

Balvant Singh of Thakuva village felt very sad that the common land of his village did not have as vigourous tree growth as the Rajasthan village had.  Lots of people had encroached the common land.  He requested them to vacate the common land but they would not listen to him.  One day he  went to the common land and declared that he had encroached the entire remaining land.  The animals of all the people in the village could neither go to commons for drinking water nor for grazing.  The people realized their mistake agreed to vacate the encroachments immediately.  He then took everybody in the village to local temple.  They took a vow to take care of the trees and the rest of the biodiversity in the commons.  They also evolved several norms for ensuring continuance of the spirit show by the people that day.  They decided that any one caught poaching i.e. cutting twigs or trees would be punished.  The culprit would have to feed 40 kg of grains to the birds through the village’s common grain stock.  If nay one saw some one poaching but did not report the matter to the village elders, he or she would be given even more severe punishment.  They also decided not to graze their animals in the commons two months after the rains.  It was resolved that if some body persisted with the offence, he or she would be outcasted.

Within the last eight years, the village commons has been rejuvenated through innovations in both the resource allocative rules as well as conflict resolution rules (Honey Bee 6(3 1995, 17-18).

Understanding institutional innovations would require recognition of blending required between secular and scared, holistic and reductionist consciousness, commons and private property linkage etc.

In the proposed case studies, we are trying to find out what kind of institutional innovations have taken place through people’s own efforts with or without accompanying technological innovations.  It is hoped that deeper understanding of people’s ecological, technological and institutional knowledge systems will help us in evolving a way of building upon the same.

[1]  Though this has been taken into account at the formal innovator (scientist) level (Gupta et. al. 1987, Richards 1985).


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place