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SAM I AM: COLLABORATIVE AGRICULTURE POLICY

Design Engineering I  |  Chuck Hoberman (GSD) +  Jock Herron (GSD) + Peter Stark (SEAS) |  2016-2017
In collaboration with Chao Gu (MDE '18) and Neeti Nayak (MDE '18)
*Awarded Harvard Graduate School of Design's Paul M. Heffernan International Travel Award
*Featured Project in Harvard Design Engineering Printed Publication
*Featured in Harvard Food Design Conference
*Continued and applied work with Harvard Office of Sustainability Innovation Grant

ABSTRACT

The project presents a collaborative methodology for strategizing, creating a holistic metric library, and a schematic of the dashboard for stakeholders on different hierarchies of the agricultural systems to interface with the metric-library. During the course of initial research, which involved literature review and systems analysis, a larger underlying phenomena was identified: All stakeholders, especially farmers, have limited say in the policies and strategies that ultimately create a concentration of unintended effects at the farmer level. The manifestation of this imbalance is the pandemic of farmer suicide.  Specifically, three contexts were identified that involve multiple stakeholders who are working directly with farmers - extension services, government, and NGOs, in the state of Maharashtra, which has the highest incidence of suicide in the world. It was revealed in the stakeholder interviews, that there was a lack of interface and uniform metrics across these stakeholders,. Moreover, the language of these systems is not the language of its practitioners. There is no balance of culture, nature and agriculture. Metrics like GDP are interchangeably used to proxy the well-being of a nation and prioritize policies, because of the use-what-can-be-measured mentality. The current attempts to move to more subjective metrics like the Human Development Indices, Gross National Happiness etc. are in their nascent stage and are too generalised to be implemented to specific agricultural systems. Tracing the link between developmental strategies, which are well-intentioned, but get manifested as unsustainable, exploitative measures, a methodology was developed. Where does the intangible intention get lost? In the evaluation. And that is what we wanted to redesign: giving a weighted voice to each stakeholder, both in the design and the evaluative process.

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INTRODUCTION

This is a potato. And this is another potato. When presented with two potatoes and asked to make a judgement call, which one would you you say was better?

Investors, environmentalists, extension services, NGOs, farmers, and consumers all have different ways of measuring their decisions when it comes to food. 

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