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A lasting tribute to Norman Borlaug

IMG_44961 On 25 March 2012, CIMMYT celebrated what would have been Norman Borlaug’s 98th birthday with the unveiling of a new statue at CENEB, Ciudad Obregón, Mexico. CIMMYT Director General, Thomas Lumpkin, presented this tribute to the “Father of the Green Revolution” in front of a crowd of over 100 people from 34 countries, which together produce 97 percent of the world’s wheat.

In his speech, Lumpkin paid tribute to the legacy left by Borlaug, both in Ciudad Obregon and around the world, and emphasized how important it is that this statue by Katharine McDavitt represents Borlaug in the field, in his prime. The bronze statue, sponsored by the Patronato, took hundreds of hours to make, and replicates are being planned for the CIMMYT headquarters at El Batán, and in Borlaug’s home state of Iowa.

Borlaug’s daughter, Jeanie, also spoke at the commemoration. Jeanie acts as the chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI), which aims to continue Borlaug’s work by reducing the world’s vulnerability to stem, leaf, and yellow rusts of wheat. The BGRI was well represented at the event, alongside many of Borlaug’s other colleagues.

Lumpkin also used this opportunity to express his pleasure that one of Borlaug’s last wishes, his desire to rebuild CIMMYT’s links with Mexico, has been fulfilled.

Collaboration with Mexico inspired Borlaug’s work in wheat research, and ultimately led to the Green Revolution and the saving of approximately one billion lives through improved wheat varieties. On Borlaug’s birthday we are reminded of what CIMMYT is capable of, and why our work is so important; he “believed that no child deserved go to bed hungry, and that all children deserved an education,” said Jeanie, “with all these challenges ahead, a hungry world depends on you.”