“Make farmers rich first” – Dr. Romulo Davide, new Magsaysay awardee

by Angeli Sabillo

Originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles

A Cebuano agriculturist and five others were heralded as 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees on Friday night.

Said to be the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace prize, the award was handed out by President Aquino III to awardees from the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Dr. Romulo Davide, an awardee and agriculturist from Cebu explained in a lecture on Thursday, “If the farmers are rich, the town becomes rich, Philippines becomes rich.”

Davide was awarded for “turning farmers into scientist-producers” by pioneering a Farmer-Scientist Training Program in Cebu in 1994. The program links farmers with scientists who teach them about high-yielding crops and modern agriculture techniques. He said with the help of the program, local farmers are now able to make at least P125,000 a year compared to almost nothing the year before.

An article by Inquirer pointed out that Davide’s win may bring fresh support for the neglected role of agriculture.

Davide said, the farmers “have no right to be poor. And we have no right to keep them poor. But that’s what’s happening.”

He is hoping that the government will adopt the program nationwide.

Davide, at 78-years-old is known as the “Father of Plant Nematology” for his study on nematode pests that kill agricultural crops. He has a BS Agricultural degree from the University of Los Banos, a masters degree from Oklahoma State University and a PhD from the North Carolina State University.

Through his program, farmers increased production by more than 100 percent. They also started using organic fertilizer and are tapped to teach fellow farmers.

The FSTP program is now in 37 towns in Cebu and has trained more than 30,000 farmers.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is given to “persons — regardless of race, nationality, creed, or gender — who address issues of human development in Asia with courage and creativity, and in doing so have made contributions which have transformed their societies for the better.”

Other awardees include Chen Shu-Jiu of Taiwan, a vegetable vendor who gave $320,000 to charitable institutions, Kulandei Francis, a priest from India who helped poor women through micro-finance, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, an environmental lawyer from Bangladesh, Yang Saing Koma, a scientist promoting sustainable farming in Cambodia and Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto, an advocate against illegal logging from Indonesia.

Each awardee received a certificate, a Magsaysay medallion and $50,000 cash prize.

In a keynote speech, President Aquino gave tribute to Ramon Magsaysay Awardee the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.

“Standing here before you today, I cannot help but remember a Ramon Magsaysay awardee that I worked very closely with—a good friend, and a member of my Cabinet who received this award in 2000 for his work as mayor of Naga City—the late Jesse M. Robredo. Jesse, as do all recipients of these awards, stood as a bearer of Ramon Magsaysay’s legacy,” the President said of his close friend and ally as he started his speech.

“Almost two weeks ago, our nation suffered a great loss when Secretary Jesse Robredo passed away. We continue to mourn the loss of a true servant leader. But I’m glad we have ceremonies like this to remind us that there are still excellent, like-minded people continuing works such as these, be it here in the Philippines or in other countries,” Aquino said.

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