Join us in our 65th Anniversary

10 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Working to End Hunger Through Food Security

Apr 26, 2023
10 min read

The Ramon Magsaysay Awardees and Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations designed the Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 interlinked objectives designed to serve as a "shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and into the future.” But even before the UN formulated the SDGs, the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees, recipients of Asia’s premier prize and highest honor, have been working on these pressing issues of human, environmental and global development.

In this new series, we will list down some notable Ramon Magsaysay Awardees who have addressed and continue to work on humanity’s collective goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 2:
Zero hunger

According to the United Nations, The number of people going hungry and suffering from food insecurity had been gradually rising between 2014 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has pushed those rising rates even higher and has also exacerbated all forms of malnutrition, particularly in children. The war in Ukraine is further disrupting global food supply chains and creating the biggest global food crisis since the Second World War.

Sustainable Development Goal 2 is about creating a world free of hunger by 2030. One of the most important targets for SDG 2 is to end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round by 2030.

Since 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award has identified and celebrated transformative leaders in Asia working for global food security and addressing hunger and malnutrition. In this second installment of our 17-part series, we highlight individuals and organizations – all of them Ramon Magsaysay Awardees – who have worked and are working on addressing SDG 2. Here are a few of them:

These three men from India, DARA N. KHURODY, TRIBHUVANDAS K. PATEL and VERGHESE KURIEN, jointly received the 1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership for “their creative coordination of government and private enterprise to improve the supply of an essential food and sanitation in one of Asia's largest and most crowded urban complexes and to raise living standards among village producers.”

KHURODY established the Aarey Milk Colony in 1949. It was then the largest dairy establishment in Asia that distributed clean milk of controlled quality and price to about one and one-half million city dwellers and over 300 hospitals and institutions. Also purchased from Aarey by the Bombay Municipality is the milk issued free daily to some 72,000 undernourished school children.

PATEL and KURIEN, like KHURODY, were also milk pioneers who established the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union. It was organized in 1948 by combining two village milk producers' societies and a dairy processing 500 pounds of milk daily. These advances have raised the quality of the dairy industry in Anand as farmer-owners under tutelage of their Union leaders gradually accept new ideas of feeding and caring for cattle and handling milk.

The INTERNATIONAL RICE RESEARCH INSTITUTE (IRRI) was the first coordinated international attempt in the tropics to solve a major problem of world agriculture. Since research began at IRRI in 1962, accomplishments have affected every aspect of rice culture. Most consequential is the new plant type of rice designed for the tropics; with narrow, upright leaves, and short, stiff straws, it is responsive to nitrogen without lodging.

At present, We’re working to improve the diets of around 4.5 billion people. IRRI is developing biofortified rice varieties with enriched micronutrient content. The organization is also improving the quality of rice by reducing the risk of heavy metal contamination, and working with partners to promote diversified rice farming systems that broaden access to more nutritious choices.

HAROLD RAY WATSON is an American Baptist minister who arrived in the Philippines in 1964. He was asked to develop and direct a church camp in Davao del Sur in Southern Philippines. After purchasing an adjoining hillside which had been farmed for 20 years and then abandoned because of impoverished soil, he experimented on techniques for erosion control.

Over many years he was able to develop a method, called Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT), that enabled farmers to produce food on badly eroded hillsides.They planted double hedges of Leucaena on contours four to six meters apart, cutting the trees back ten times yearly to keep them low and dense; the leafy tops were used to fertilize the crops planted (without plowing) between the hedges. Corn, beans, pineapple, coffee, bananas, peanuts, sweet potatoes and fruit trees all prospered.

Believing that "an understanding of nature lies beyond the reach of human intelligence,” MASANOBU FUKUOKA was a Japanese farmer and philosopher celebrated for his natural farming and re-vegetation of desertified lands. He was a proponent of no-till, herbicide and pesticide free cultivation methods from which he created a particular method of agriculture, commonly referred to as "natural farming" or "do-nothing farming.”

In FUKUOKA’s rice and barley fields, sturdy grains share their habitat with white clover, insects, birds, and small animals. In his orchards, unpruned orange trees rise prolifically above a profusion of grasses, herbs, and vegetables. They all thrive together naturally.

VO-TONG XUAN is known throughout southern Vietnam as "Dr. Rice" (as in a medical doctor) because of a popular television show which he presented that taught farmers better techniques for growing and cultivating rice. He was also instrumental in the eradication of the brown planthopper bug which, throughout the 1970s, was destroying paddy rice.

His expertise in the management of problem soils in Vietnam, together with his knowledge on rice production and agricultural diversification in the Mekong Delta, greatly increased rice productivity and contributed to the emergence of Vietnam as the third-largest rice exporting country in the world.

A young YUAN LONGPING began his teaching career at the Anjiang Agricultural School, Hunan Province. In the 1960s, he had the idea of hybridizing rice to increase its yield after reading of similar research that was underway successfully in maize and sorghum. YUAN went on to solve more problems over the next decades to achieve higher yielding hybrid rice. The first experimental hybrid rice did not show any significant advantage over commonly grown varieties, so YUAN suggested crossbreeding cultivated rice varieties with ones growing wild in the countryside.

Known as the “Father of the Hybrid Rice,” he was elected to receive the 2001 Ramon Magsaysay Award for “the unique contribution of his research in rice hybridization to food security in Asia.”

YANG SAING KOMA is a Cambodian agronomist who advocated sustainable agriculture by building an empowered citizenry in the rice farming communities through food security, market access, and asset creation. He founded the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), established in 1997 and works for the development of small scale agriculture and sustainable management of community based natural resources through participatory development research and extension, teaching and training, and promotion of exchange and dissemination of information.

ROMULO DAVIDE is a Filipino agricultural scientist hailed as the “Father of Plant Nematology” for his many years of teaching and groundbreaking research on nematode pests that infest, debilitate, and destroy agricultural crops. His work led to the development of BIOCON, the first Philippine biological control product that can be used against pests attacking vegetables, banana, potato, citrus, pineapple, rice, and other crops, thus making available a practical substitute for highly toxic and expensive chemical nematicides.

DAVIDE also launched the “Corn-based Farmer-Scientists Training Program” (FSTP), an innovative and multi-faceted program, through actual field experience and interaction with experts, that turns farmers into “farmer-scientists” who would be able to do experiments, discover effective techniques, manage the market, and increase production.