Back our young scientists

Imlisanen Jamir

Nagaland needs to craft a learning ecosystem for innovations that remove social and economic inequities and promote inclusive growth. An inclusive approach to innovations is needed for economic development to respond to grassroots needs.


Last week, The Morung Express published a story about a 20 year old Naga inventor, whose curiosity for how things work and the zeal to invent serve as reminders of how essential grassroots science and innovation is for not just developing societies like ours, but for the whole world.


Zenwang Konyak from Tizit village, Mon, a 2nd year B.Sc student (Botany) at Kohima Science College, Jotsoma (KSCJ) was recently adjudged as an ‘Ashoka Youth Venturer’ alongside 15 young social innovators across India at the Ashoka Youth Venture Program, Bangalore.


He was selected for his book ‘Grow Your Plants’ (Team Echo Inspiro), which is a guidebook for children on how to grow indigenous plants in their homes and backyards. The book also aims to generate interest in botanical sciences and indigenous practices.


In addition to the guidebook, Zenwang also has several other innovations to his name. They include a water harvesting technology called UHarvest; a thermoelectric form fireplace; the Hydrowingen; and most significantly the Tea Leaf Cutting Machine.


His story strengthens the argument for focus on innovations that create and expand economic opportunities for poor people at the bottom of the social and economic pyramids, who for instance have no access to clean water, reliable energy; and good health and nutrition.


Such an inclusive approach would involve solutions developed largely through improvisation and experimentation in resource- constrained environments.


Meanwhile, sincere policies and efforts are also required to help inventors and scientists like Zenwang to overcome the stark realities of negligible market opportunities, mainly due to the absence of early stage financing and limitations in using prospects of local markets.


Any developing society would depend on low-cost manufacturing, knowledge-based industries, capacity and capability to innovate new technologies and new business models. Innovation is thus, a crucial driver of rising prosperity and improved national competitiveness.


Innovation can be anywhere, and in any part of the world. It may start from a fisherman’s hamlet or a farmer’s household, or a dairy farm or cattle-breeding centre; or it could emanate from classrooms or labs or industries, or R&D centres.


Tapping community knowledge alongside research on broader theoretical scientific questions is essential—to combine stories like that of Zenwang with the so called “purist approach” and learn to interact with just about any discipline and take the benefits of the resultant synergies.


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