“There are no barren soils, only barren minds.”
A Filipino agricultural scientist planted his father’s advice deep in his heart. Now, he is among this year’s winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.
Romulo Davide, born in the mountain village of Colawin in Argao, Cebu province, was recognized for “his steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of farmers in the Philippines, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labor,” the award foundation said on Wednesday.
With a doctorate and advanced training in the United States and Ireland, Davide, 78, is one of the country’s top scientists, hailed as the “Father of Plant Nematology” for his years of teaching and groundbreaking research on nematode pests that infest, debilitate and destroy agricultural crops.
His discovery of nematode-trapping fungi led to the development of Biocon, the first Philippine biological control product that can be used against nematode pests attacking vegetables, banana, potato, citrus, pineapple, rice and other crops. The product is a practical substitute for highly toxic and expensive chemical nematicides, according to the foundation.
Besides Davide, the other Magsaysay awardees for this year come from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Taiwan. The award is named after the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, who died in a plane crash in 1957.
A total of 290 other laureates have previously received the Magsaysay prize.
The winners will receive their awards—a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of Magsaysay, and a $50,000 cash prize each—in Manila on August 31.
The award is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who typify Magsaysay’s sense of selfless service, the foundation said.
“The awardees of 2012 are six remarkable individuals, all deeply involved in creating sustainable solutions to poverty and its accompanying disempowerment—whether in the forests or on farmlands, in exploitative industries or in inadequate education,” foundation president Carmencita Abella said in a statement.
“Working selflessly in unpretentious yet powerful ways, they are showing how commitment, competence, and collaborative leadership can truly transform millions of individual lives and galvanize progressive community action.”
Abella cited the awardees’ passion for improving others’ lives. “They all refuse to give up, despite adversity and opposition. They are all deeply rooted in hope,” she said.
Davide’s numerous awards included the “Outstanding Agricultural Scientist” by the Department of Agriculture in 1994. He used his award money to launch in Colawin the corn-based Farmer-Scientists Training Program (FSTP), which aimed to turn farmers into “farmer-scientists” able to do experiments, discover effective techniques, manage the market and increase production, the foundation said.
It said the project enabled farmers to increase corn yields six to 12 times over and adopt intercropping system and animal production technologies that further increased their incomes.
The national government adopted the FSTP in 2008 for countrywide implementation, with the Department of Agriculture and the University of the Philippines-Los Baños as lead implementors and Davide as program leader.
Now, the FSTP is being implemented in 20 provinces.
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