avatar for R.S. Shanthakumar Hopper

R.S. Shanthakumar Hopper

JRD Tata Echotechnology Centre

Dr. Romell Hopper holds a doctorate in Botany (1987) focused in the workings of Biofertilisers  - Technology development and dissemination. His post-doctoral work was on the Genetics of Algae for an Indo–US collaborative project (1987-1990).

He joined the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation – MSSRF (1991 -2000) as the National Project Director of the Biovillage programme, which initially started in India, China and Indonesia. The Biovillage programme in 75 villages in Pondicherry, India covering a population of 8000 is a holistic and human centered approach to poverty reduction. In the Biovillages a number of ON / OFF farm Ecotechnologies (ON / OFF Farm) with associated support services were identified, developed and scaled up. 

To gain more experience on promoting sustainable agriculture in the south Indian drylands he worked with the Netherlands embassy and the Japan consulate (2000 - 2005) promoting sustainable livelihoods through Participatory Technology Development (PTD) in the semi-arid Deccan Plateau, networking with more than 120 NGO’s covering a population of 18,000 farmers. 

The tsunami disaster was an opportunity for Dr. Hopper to work with Oxfam Australia (2005 – 2010 March) as its livelihood specialist and Programme Manager in India. It was a challenging task to reconstruct these livelihoods in a disaster context, networking with 22 coastal region NGO’s from Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh states affected by the tsunami.

Dr. Hopper rejoined MSSRF in March 2010 and is currently the Director of the JRD TATA Ecotechnology center. The Centre undertakes pioneering research and development activities to diffuse and demystify environmentally sound technologies through the Biovillage model of sustainable development. This is based on a rural system research methodology which gives concurrent emphasis to raising farm productivity and profitability as well as non-farm employment, including small scale industries and ecoenterprises. The model focuses on promoting a holistic and human centred development which is the pathway to sustainable human development. The Centre has also scaled up this approach at the micro-watershed level through the concept of Bio-industrial watersheds. The broad objective is to be able to extend the techniques of sustainable management of natural resources, on a watershed scale, managed by the local community of farm women and men, and landless labourers in five major Agro ecological soil regions of India.

In all these approaches focus is given to strengthening, diversifying and identifying alternative livelihood options and eco-entrepreneurship for food and livelihood security with a special focus on the landless and marginal households through Self Help Groups (SHGs) and farmer’s producer organizations. Promoting concerted stakeholder action is one of the key strategies of the Centre. This has enabled us to harness the rights of entitlements of the poor and to scale up the best practices. The Centre promotes and establishes user managed ICT-based Village Knowledge Centers/Community Learning Centres, which supply need-based, dynamic information concerning markets, weather and climate to the different sections of the community.