By Nabeeha M. Kazi, President & CEO, Humanitas Global
Yesterday, the World Food Prize Institute unveiled the recipient of the 2014 World Food Prize: Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, a CIMMYT scientist from India and Mexico.
Dr. Rajaram is among the world’s best wheat breeders, and spent more than three decades working closely with Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the World Food Prize, Dr. Norman Borlaug. Dr. Borlaug appointed Dr. Rajaram as his successor to lead CIMMYT’s wheat program from 1976 – 2001. This year's award is the first ever to go to a wheat scientist.
With 2014 marking the centennial celebration of Dr. Borlaug, it is extraordinarily fitting for this year’s Laureate to be a wheat breeder, and someone who worked daily with Dr. Borlaug and so successfully expanded post-Green Revolution impact.
The World Food Prize recognizes the achievements made by outstanding individuals in the fight against global hunger and malnutrition, and who have acted upon Dr. Borlaug’s call to action to “take it to the farmer.”
Taking it to the farmer is precisely what defines the career of Dr. Rajaram. He is credited with increasing world wheat production by more than 200 million tons in the years following the Green Revolution. He successfully crossbred winter and spring wheat varieties, which possessed distinct gene pools, and developed varieties that were higher yielding and broader in genetic base.
United States Secretary of State, John Kerry said, “When you do the math, when our planet needs to support two billion more people in the next three decades, it’s not hard to figure out: This is the time for a second Green Revolution. That’s why Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram is being honored with the World Food Prize. We are grateful for the hundreds of new species of wheat Dr. Rajaram developed, which deliver 200 million more tons of grain to global markets each year and feed millions across the world.”
I have had the great honor to know Dr. Rajaram for most of my life. He is an extraordinary and brilliant scientist, and everyone who knows him recognizes this. I remember how CIMMYT’s hallways were always abuzz about “Rajaram" and his team. But scientific brilliance and innovative research outputs do little if we don’t keep the end in mind. Hearing him and his fellow scientists interact was a powerful lesson in always asking the question: “So what?” What do we do with new knowledge? What do we do to make a greater impact? What do we do to get evidence and research outputs out into the hands of farmers and help the hungry and malnourished as quickly as possible?
“Uncle Rajaram,” as my siblings and I called him, always had a laser sharp focus on making an exponential impact on the lives of farmers and those who remain hungry and vulnerable. The commitment to research was a given, but I believe he receives this award because of his and his team’s determination and success in making their wheat breeding outputs accessible at scale.
As such, Dr. Rajaram’s work has been about saving and nourishing lives, and he has made lives better, at scale.
Congratulations, Dr. Rajaram. We look forward to seeing you and celebrating with you during the formal Laureate ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa this October.