Dr. Norman Borlaug’s Granddaughter Reacts to World Food Prize Laureate Announcement

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Julie Borlaug

Julie Borlaug

WASHINGTON D.C. — Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of the late Dr. Norman Borlaug and external relations director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, called this year’s World Food Prize Laureate “one of the greatest assets in fighting hunger and poverty today.”

Borlaug’s remarks come after the June 18 announcement of 2014’s only World Food Prize laureate, Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, one of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s “most esteemed colleagues,” she said.

“I’d like to congratulate Dr. Rajaram on behalf of the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University for his hard work in carrying on my grandfather’s legacy while building his own,” Borlaug said. “Sanjaya Rajaram was one of my grandfather’s most esteemed colleagues. I know he would have been proud to see the World Food Prize awarded to someone he held in such high regard and who has contributed so much to the fight against world hunger and poverty.”

Dr. Rajaram worked with Dr. Borlaug in Mexico and has continued his own life’s work by developing 480 wheat varieties and contributing to a world wheat production increase of roughly 200 million tons across 51 countries, said U.S. Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn during the announcement ceremony.

2014 marks the first year since the award’s creation by Dr. Borlaug in 1986 that The World Food Prize has been presented to someone working in wheat, the crop for which Dr. Borlaug is venerated and globally renowned as the Father of the Green Revolution.

“This is an especially momentous award in the light of my grandfather’s centennial year,” Julie Borlaug said recognizing 2014 as the year that would have marked her grandfather’s 100th birthday.

The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University designs and implements projects of agricultural development in many countries. The Institute works with governments, NGOs and private partners in boosting agricultural economies to benefit smallholder farmers and agricultural practitioners of the developing world.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Project closes, continues to build agricultural expertise, livelihoods in Indonesia

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An Indonesian farmer harvests sap for making palm sugar, a product whose market has been strengthened through formation of cooperatives via the TPC project.

Hendrik Adrian Ngala harvests sap for making palm sugar, a product whose market has been strengthened through formation of cooperatives via the TPC project.

By GABRIEL SALDANA | The Borlaug Institute

INDONESIA — Universities and smallholder farmers of Indonesia continue to fight hunger and poverty together by building stronger industry around the country’s tropical plants – the culmination of a four-year project led by the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.

The Indonesia Tropical Plant Curriculum Project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, paired the Institute with three partner universities of Indonesia: Bogor Agricultural University, Bogor; Udayana University, Denpasar; Sam Ratulangi University, Manado.

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Together, the partners revamped university curricula to seek unknown health benefits and innovative commercial uses for underutilized plants abundant across Indonesia. The project’s in-country collaborators continue to deliver beneficial, science-based information to farming communities across the country of islands, empowering smallholder farmers and youth to build strong agricultural livelihoods on bolstered university curricula, good agricultural practices, innovative new food products and more comprehensive food labeling practices.



“Training is done in individual villages to educate the members of those villages and communities about the value of tropical plants, how they might be utilized and how they might be conserved,” said Dr. Tim Davis, the Borlaug Institute’s regional director for Asia.

By the TPC project’s March 2014 closure, 17 Indonesian university courses had been enriched with new instruction on tropical plants – teachings that now reach a student enrollment of about 1,100. Graduate students transfer their lessons on tropical plants to smallholder communities and vocational students.



“Response from the (graduate) students has been very good,” said Dr. Pur Hariyadi, director of Bogor Agricultural University’s Southeast Asia Food and Agriculture Science and Technology Center. “We work very closely with the student association here; they have a lot of ideas on how to work with the community.”

Grade school students, through the TPC Project, also receive instruction on the benefits of tropical plants – a measure to cultivate the next generation of agricultural leaders. For example, students at SDN Cihideung Ilir 03 Elementary School in Bogor have begun learning about the properties and benefits of specific medicinal plants.



Wulida Nurfadillah, a 6th grade student there, claimed top laurels in the TPC project’s writing contest on medicinal plants. She “wrote about ginger because ginger is one of the rhizomes, which has many benefits,” she said. “My parents were so happy and said I have to keep studying to reach my goals.”

Meanwhile, the TPC Project trained 1,000 community members on the importance of conservation and utilization of tropical plants. Nine documents outlining good agricultural practices are now available to farmers across the country through the project. About 40 entrepreneurs received training related to tropical plant product development and 12 products were created or revamped through TPC efforts.

“We look at developing tropical plant-based products that can be sold here in Indonesia and maybe even elsewhere, eventually, that allow for economic development in the communities,” Davis said.

In several regions, cooperatives have also been formed by the TPC project to give producers greater market bargaining power. Before the Sun Rises Forestry Cooperative near Manado, for example, has banded together to train new producers of palm sugar and to more effectively dictate a fair price for the product. A secondary effect has been to move some co-op members away from distilling and selling illegal liquor made from palm sap.



“After I introduced the TPC program (in this community,) now they know how to make palm sugar,” said Dr. T. Lasut, forestry lecturer and palm sugar expert of Sam Ratulangi University. “We still have problems (with the liquor) but now we’re trying to have standardization to get the product to sell in supermarkets… we’re supported by the government because they know this product can decrease the production of the alcohol.”

In Padangan Village near Bali, the Tunas Bamboo Cooperative has been organized as an effort of the TPC project to boost the market for a type of savory bamboo shoot exclusive to the region.



“Since formalizing the cooperative… the production and the price of bamboo shoots are increasing and it is automatically increasing the welfare of the community,” said Made Lakir, the cooperative’s leader.  “As the leader, I also feel happy and am so motivated because the market is very promising.”

Meanwhile, other TPC research has looked at previously ambiguous health benefits of some tropical plants. The widely used kenari nut, for example, was found to contain high levels of antioxidants and shown to reduce cholesterol in lab rats, said Dr. Robert Molenaar, an agricultural engineer at Sam Ratulangi Unversity.

New findings about the health benefits and nutritional content of foods are now being used to improve food labeling practices, which food processors, like those at the Airmadidi Village Kenari Nut Bakery near Manado, hope will add to their products’ consumer appeal.



“This is how research goes back to the community,” said Erny Nurali, an agricultural scientist with Sam Ratulangi University.

By the TPC project’s closure in March, in-country university partners had already begun to draft proposals for funding to continue developing industry and education around tropical plants. The country’s directorate of higher education had already allocated funds for continuing food processing and labeling education near Manado, Nurali said.

Visit http://borlaug.tamu.edu/projects-by-region/asia/indonesia-tropical-plant-curriculum-program/ or http://seafast.ipb.ac.id/tpc-project/ to read more about the Indonesia Tropical Plant Curriculum Project.

The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University is a part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. The Institute designs and implements agriculture development projects to assist smallholder farmers and food producers across the globe in building their own food security and livelihoods through agricultural science. 

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NEWS RELEASE: Borlaug Institute Leads Effort to Rebuild Central American Coffee Industry

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May 19, 2014 | COLLEGE STATION, TX — The largest project of its type for Texas A&M AgriLife aims to reconstruct a Central American coffee industry still recovering from the coffee rust disease epidemic that devastated the region to the tune of $1 billion in the harvest season of late 2012 alone.

The research project, an almost $5 million Global Development Alliance (GDA) with principal partners at Texas A&M University, will focus research efforts in coffee-producing regions of Central America, the Caribbean, and Peru.

A coffee leaf displays rust disease

A coffee leaf displays rust disease

The GDA is led by the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and co-funded by the Institute’s World Coffee Research (WCR) program.  Project partners include coffee research and development institutions from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Dominican Republic and Jamaica (PROMECAFE), the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), the Feed the Future initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and the Federal University of Viçosa.

The United States Agency for International Development’s Administrator Rajiv Shah said, “By partnering with innovators from College Station to Colombia, we can promote broad-based economic growth for the world’s most vulnerable people. Fighting epidemics like coffee rust empower entrepreneurs and create sustainable livelihoods for families – helping entire communities become self-sufficient.”

The project seeks primarily to rebuild livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers whose income was ravaged by the rust epidemic. As such, research will focus on establishing a higher quality Central American coffee sector through plantation renovation with high quality, disease resistant coffee varieties and a constant pipeline of newer, higher performing varieties.

“The Borlaug Institute is confident in the team we’ve assembled to rebuild the Central American coffee industry through rebuilding its producers’ livelihoods and food security,” said Dr. Elsa Murano, interim director of the Borlaug Institute.

“PROMECAFE and WCR are confident in this GDA’s ability to turn things around for the Central American coffee producer who has been hit hard with a double whammy of Leaf Rust and Low Prices,” said Dr. Tim Schilling, Executive Director of World Coffee Research. “Central America must shoot for the higher end of the market and this GDA will allow that to happen by providing high quality, rust resistant varieties tailored for specific eco-geographic zones.”

A coffee farmer picks some of the last healthy coffee beans of the 2013 season.

A coffee farmer picks some of the last healthy coffee beans of the 2013 season.

Although much of the work will be done in Central America, two coffee biotechnologists will work as post-doctorates at the Texas A&M Institute for Biotechnology and Genomics under direction of Dr. Martin Dickman, in the department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. An innovative rust bio-control approach will also be executed with the Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil and Kew Gardens in London.

The Central American coffee leaf rust crisis of 2012 was caused by climatic and pathological interactions further aggravated by the unpreparedness of the sector due to low coffee prices and underscored by the use of older, rust-susceptible varieties. Estimates by PROMECAFE, the regional coffee organization, reveal that overall coffee production is down by 20% compared to 2011. Roughly half of the approximate 1M hectares of coffee acreage were significantly affected by coffee leaf rust resulting in lower production and less farmer income.

Current rust mitigation actions through fungicide spraying are essential to keep coffee production viable for 2014 and 2015. However, they do not provide the producer with a sustainable means of preventing future crises and corresponding production and profit losses without constant use of expensive fungicides.

“This multi-stakeholder initiative creates essential linkages between industry, research institutions and NGOs to provide coffee farming families with more tools and greater capacity to confront a growing number of threats to their coffee and their livelihoods,” said Lindsey Bolger, WCR Chairperson and VP of Coffee Sourcing and Excellence at Keurig Green Mountain. “By engaging with WCR, coffee roasting companies like Keurig Green Mountain can leverage their interest in ensuring a long-term supply of high quality coffee while helping to address the immediate needs of coffee producing families and communities in Central and South America.”

Because Central America can grow in the specialty coffee sector as a major supplier of top drawer coffees for the most discriminating and lucrative markets, there are five priorities for the project.

The first priority is to assist producers in making the best investment decisions in choosing varietals for plantation renovation. The second is to provide assistance to the private and public sectors in how to multiply the best varieties and make them available to producers.

While this is being done, coffee production trend data will be collected, including socio-economic variables that would be paramount in preventing future biological disasters such as the rust epidemic. This third effort will allow a comprehensive analysis of the viability of smallholder coffee in Central America for use by industry and government planning.

The final two priorities involve safeguarding coffee by creating a pipeline of readily available, high-quality, pest-resistant genetic material to advance the best varieties to farmer evaluation and eventual commercialization, and supporting a multi-stakeholder effort to create a high-tech breeding program to provide the highest level of quality-tailored, adapted, climate resilient, and pest resistant ‘breeding’ blocks.

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Texas A&M Master Student Talks Soil Research in Ghana

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Carrying on the Borlaug Legacy: Benjamin Davies

In the above video, Benjamin Davies, a master student of Soil & Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University, discusses his ongoing research on soil tilling and amendment in Ghana.

Davies’ research seeks to find which soil practices and technologies most efficiently establish fertile soil and better crop production for small holder farmers in Ghana.

McWhorter Receives Distinguished Service Award

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Dr. G. Michael McWhorter (center) receives AIARD's Distinguished Service Award at the organization's annual conference June 2 in Washington D.C.

Dr. G. Michael McWhorter (center) receives AIARD’s Distinguished Service Award at the organization’s annual conference June 2 in Washington D.C.

AIARD Honors Borlaug Institute Associate Director

June 3, 2014 | WASHINGTON D.C. — Dr. G. Michael McWhorter was presented this week with the Association for International Agriculture & Rural Development’s Distinguished Service Award. He was honored Monday as part of AIARD’s 50th annual conference in Washington D.C.

The Borlaug Institute’s associate director and international training coordinator was awarded specifically for his role in proposing and implementing AIARD’s Future Leaders Forum, which, since its inception in 2005, has fulfilled its mission by funding trips for 121 finishing graduate students to AIARD’s annual conference to meet with perspective employers in agricultural development.

McWhorter reacted to the nod by stressing that implementation of the Future Leaders Forum was a team effort.

“We want to focus on what we were able to do as a team of people,” he said. “I certainly didn’t do this by myself and I’m proud of the team it took to get this put together.”

He continued to point out that the mission of the Future Leaders Forum overshadows the successes of individual contributors.

“What I’m most proud of is that it’s succeeded to connect young people coming out of school to the international development career track,” McWhorter said. “We’re infusing new blood into international development; that’s what I’m most proud of.”

AIARD’s annual Distinguished Service Award is presented to persons who make innovative contributions to AIARD programs, advance AIARD’s purpose through public service and serve AIARD and the international arena at large for significant periods of time.

The annual Future Leaders Forum, part of the AIARD annual conference, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development. It has previously been funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Ph.D student talks ag and nutrition research, photos for data collection

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In the above video, Christopher Bielecki, a Ph.D student of agricultural leadership, education and communication at Texas A&M University, reviews the research he’s conducted in Guatemala on agricultural production, nutrition and poverty. Bielecki discusses how photos might present a new approach to collecting data compared with traditional survey methods. He reviews his research from the perspective of affecting stronger connections between agricultural production and nutrition.

Ph.D student to represent Texas A&M at Chicago Council Symposium

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Silvano Assanga, a Ph.D student of plant breeding at Texas A&M University and recipient of the prestigious Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholarship, was chosen as a 2014 Next Generation Delegate for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual Global Food Security Symposium. He represents Texas A&M at the Washington D.C. event May 21-22, 2014.

Assanga’s research at Texas A&M focuses on wheat breeding and genetics, specifically drought tolerance, rust and a complementary study on wheat streak mosaic virus. He plans to graduate early 2016.

In the video above, he reacts to being selected as a Symposium delegate and reflects on the honor of receiving his scholarship.

Watch Live April 25 12 p.m.

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Presentation Video:

The Borlaug Institute invites you on Friday, April 25 to join us as we welcome Amy Baker, executive director of the 2Seeds Network – a non-profit that recruits new graduates for development work in Africa.

Baker, in the latest installment of the Borlaug Institute 2014 Seminar Series, will discuss human capital development in agricultural and economic development – building competence and connections in-country for facing challenges when NGOs leave.

The lecture will take place April 25 from 12pm-1pm at Texas A&M University, West Campus, Agriculture & Life Sciences Building (AGLS) Room 129.

The 2Seeds Network is an incorporated non-profit, which serves as an umbrella organization incubating small, efficient, and effective agricultural development projects in Africa. 2Seeds focuses on selecting, training, and mentoring bright and passionate graduates at the beginning of their careers to work with its African partners.

Texas A&M University Welcomes the Hunger U Tour

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  • WHAT: Hunger U Tour Food Forum
  • WHEN: Thursday, April 3, 2014 | 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • WHERE:Texas A&M University West Campus, AgriLife Center
  • #hungercantwait

Join the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as we host an interactive forum by the Hunger U Tour on Thursday, April 3.

The evening panel discussion from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. aims to engage students and academia by encouraging the audience to chime in on food security and the fight against global hunger. The panel will include experts from organizations like Global Food Security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, Farmers Fight, World Hunger Relief, Student Researchers and Project Spammy.

The forum will be emceed by US Ambassador Eric M. Bost and will be moderated by Borlaug Institute Strategic Coordinator and Texas A&M University Agricultural Development Lecturer Stephanie Curs.

Hunger U is a “mobile tour educating college students, academia and anyone who eats about the role advanced agriculture plays in putting food on our tables.”

The Borlaug Centennial Celebrations

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In recognition of the centennial birth year of the late Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and agronomist credited with saving a billion people from starvation through his life’s work, the Borlaug Institute recognizes its namesake by sharing the following set of links and information related to Dr. Borlaug’s enduring legacy.

Borlaug Institute Centennial Tribute Video

Norman Borlaug: Journey to Statuary Hall | Preview | Iowa PBS

Borlaug Centennial Press Links:

Borlaug Centennial Miscellaneous Links: