Des Moines, Iowa, USA, 15 October 2014 – The 2014 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation was presented today to Dr. Bram Govaerts during the awards ceremony of the World Food Prize (WFP) Borlaug Dialogue international symposium. The third annual US $10,000 award given by the World Food Prize Foundation recognizes “researchers under 40 who emulate the scientific innovation and dedication to food security demonstrated by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug.” Govaerts, a native of Belgium working in Mexico, was honored with the award for his work developing “leading-edge, sustainable programs that are transforming subsistence agriculture and unsustainable farming systems in Mexico and other regions of the world into productive and sustainable production operations,” according to the WFP. Govaerts, 35, serves as the Associate Director of the Global Conservation Agricultural Program as well as the leader of the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro) program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).
Govaerts was instrumental in the planning and implementation of MasAgro, a joint initiative of CIMMYT and the Government of Mexico, which began in late 2010. After leading a key component of MasAgro since then, Govaerts assumed leadership of the entire program in June 2014. Prior to joining CIMMYT, Govaerts worked extensively in Ethiopia as part of his Ph.D. research, extending conservation agriculture technologies to smallholder farmers in the country’s highland areas. He is currently seeking to apply lessons learned from MasAgro to related projects in Latin America, especially Guatemala. Govaerts’ collaborative work with farmers has made it possible for smallholder farmers in Mexico and other developing countries to escape hunger and poverty and improve their livelihoods.
“Echoing Borlaug’s key qualities, Govaerts’ vision of applied science, knowledge of the Mexican countryside, mastery of Spanish, communication skills and charisma have played a key role in MasAgro’s success and helped put CIMMYT in the center of translating research into wide-spread impact and major agricultural policy changes,” said CIMMYT Director General Thomas Lumpkin.
Govaerts not only emulates Borlaug’s values but has taken great inspiration from the “father of the Green Revolution” as well. The groundbreaking “Take it to the Farmer” component of MasAgro that Govaerts developed and successfully led borrows its name from the late Nobel Laureate’s inspiring last words. The program’s objectives are “to integrate technological innovation into small-scale farming systems for maize and wheat crops, while minimizing detrimental impacts on the environment.” Farmers on over 94,000 hectares have switched to sustainable systems using MasAgro technologies as a result of this program, while farmers on another 600,000 hectares are receiving training and information to improve their agricultural techniques and practices.
“This is not my award, but a recognition for all who believe in ‘Take it To the Farmer’ and in bringing science and innovation to the field,” Govaerts said. “It’s a credit to the incredible people who work tirelessly in the field, offices and laboratories to make conservation agriculture research at CIMMYT a success, maintaining the long-term trials and changing science into action. This includes MasAgro staff and partners – farmers, technicians, scientists and small-scale entrepreneurs in Mexico, Guatemala, Ethiopia and many other places who decided that we can actually make a difference.”
For more information about the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation please go to http://www.worldfoodprize.org/.
Headquartered in Mexico, CIMMYT is the global leader in research for development in wheat and maize and wheat- and maize-based farming systems. CIMMYT works throughout the developing world with hundreds of partners to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat systems to improve global food security and livelihoods.
Improved, CIMMYT-derived wheat is sown on more than 60 million hectares in developing countries – over 70 percent of the spring wheat area planted with modern wheat varieties in those nations. These wheat varieties are responsible for bigger harvests that bring annual added benefits to farmers of at least US $500 million. Similarly, 50 percent of modern maize varieties grown in developing countries come from CIMMYT improved seeds. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR Consortium and leads the Consortium Research Programs WHEAT and MAIZE. CIMMYT receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.
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Director of International Communications and Development