A framework for creating an inventive ethic at grassroots level and forging links between excellence in formal and informal Science through Honey Bee Network.
Note on the vision statement Global competitiveness of any society hinges basically on its ability to incorporate the spirit of excellence at all levels of society. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. To widen the decision making options of knowledge rich economically disadvantaged communities and individuals; one needs to build upon their experimental and innovative spirit. Only then the whole chain can be strong. Honey Bee Network of grassroots innovators has proved that technological and institutional innovations developed by individuals and communities can provide a new way of thinking about conservation of diversity, generation of sustainable alternatives for natural resource management through self supporting viable economic and non-economic options, and augmenting self reliant livelihood strategies.
It is a model of poverty alleviation and conservation of natural resources which builds upon particular resources in which poor people are often rich i.e. their knowledge. In many cases, the insights learnt from local innovations can even extend the frontiers of modern science. In the case of herbal medicine, the studies have shown that as many as seventy four percent of the human plant derived drugs are used for the same purpose for which local communities and tribal people use these plants (Farnsworth, 1981). What modern science did was only to make the method of extraction, formulation, storage or delivery more efficient, or in some cases generate a synthetic analogue of the active compounds. It is a different matter that in almost no case, modern private or other public sector organizations have ever shared any gain from this knowledge with the local communities or individual innovators. The experience of TBGRI is an exception. Honey Bee Network was started ten years ago to correct asymmetry in power relationships between formal and informal sectors of science, technology and economic enterprises. Honey Bee Network believes in protection of intellectual property rights of local communities as well as individuals and has been pleading for that much before the issue of patenting was being discussed widely in the country. Honey Bee does what we intellectuals and other public professionals often fail to do. It connects flower to flower and takes away their nectar and pollen without making them to complain. The cross pollination of ideas among local communities is possible only if we share our research findings in local language that communities can understand. Similarly, when we collect knowledge from people, we should not make it anonymous knowledge. The providers should be acknowledged and their IPRs should be protected. Further, if we get any material rewards, gains or any other form of income from commercialization, diffusion or publication of this knowledge, we must share part of the gains with knowledge providers and their communities.
It is this spirit which guides the activities of the voluntary organization, SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) set up in 1993 to support and strengthen the Honey Bee Network - a voluntary informal network of creative people, policy makers, scientists, NGOs and other professionals interested in augmenting grassroots innovations. The Honey Bee Network tries to: