Breakthrough with Prof. MK Othman: Meeting American Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn: Finding Hope in a Hungry World (II)

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Dr. Borlaug’s career as an agricultural scientist was spectacularly successful. As mentioned in my first part of this article, he was able to fabulously achieve a historic milestone of his career within twenty years of service when he bred a high-yielding short-straw, disease-resistant variety of wheat.
Added to this scientific goal, was his practical humanitarian posture. Thus, he worked hard to put the new wheat strains into extensive production for the purpose of feeding the hungry people of the world. This success thrilled him and the scientific world, he astoundingly described his breakthrough as “a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation, a breathing space in which to deal with the “Population Monster” and the subsequent environmental and social ills that too often lead to conflict between men and between nations”. The scientific and humanitarian mien of Borlaug made him crisscrossed the globe and visited many countries; India, Pakistan, Latin America, Middle East and several African countries.
This success thrilled him and the scientific world, he astoundingly described his breakthrough as “a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation, a breathing space in which to deal with the “Population Monster” and the subsequent environmental and social ills that too often lead to conflict between men and between nations”. The scientific and humanitarian mien of Borlaug made him crisscross the globe and visited many countries; India, Pakistan, Latin America, Middle East and several African countries.
The scientific and humanitarian mien of Borlaug made him crisscross the globe and visited many countries; India, Pakistan, Latin America, Middle East and several African countries.
To us in Nigeria, Dr. Borlaug was a famous hero for the wheat and maize farmers of Kano, Saminaka, Bauchi and the host of other farming communities in the country.
He raised the yield of maize from mere average of 1.5 to 8 tons per hectare with his improved varieties and practices. This was done under the auspices of SASAKAWA Global 2000, popularly known as SG 2000 (refer to my article in October, 2015 for more information on SG 2000).
Borlaug’s adventure into Africa was initiated and facilitated by Mr. Ryoichi Sasakawa, the Chairman of the Japanese Ship building Industry Foundation (JSIF).
Mr. Ryoichi was a first class philanthropist. He was the first to fly aid into Africa when the continent was devastated by the worst famine of the 1980s. About 20 countries were hit with a consequential colossal loss of human dignity that greatly shocked the whole world.
The worst affected countries were those located in Sub Sahara region. Mr. Ryoichi was fully aware that flying in food items was only an immediate solution to the food crisis and the permanent solution was to attack the underlying causes of Africa’s food crisis, not just the symptoms.
Thus, he was fully aware that the permanent and sustainable solution to the menace of food crisis could only come from the use of improved agricultural production. This must involve the use of high-yielding crop varieties and improved agronomic practices. Looking for this solution led Mr. Ryoichi to engage the services of a renowned scientist, Mr. Norman E. Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who eventually became the President, Sasakawa Africa Association, and Senior Consultant, Global 2000.
At the same time, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, also deeply concerned about Africa’s food production crisis and looking for ways to help solve it, offered his collaboration and assistance, especially in the policy making arena and mobilization of African Leaders, which was critical to overcoming the many problems plaguing agricultural development in Africa.
In January 1986, Mr. Sasakawa, President Carter, Dr. Leslie Swindale (Director General of ICRISAT) and Dr. Borlaug visited several African nations for discussions with government leaders about the prospects of establishing action – oriented, food crop technology transfer projects. They found strong interest for their proposals.
Consequently, two agricultural development projects were launched in Sudan and Ghana, which was successfully managed by SG 2000 with gorgeous results.
Dr. Borlaug visited Nigeria in 1992 when SG 2000 came to Nigeria. He saw the successful take off of the SG 2000 in Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi states. He came back in 1993 when he witnessed the field day of wheat in Kadawa, Kano State. To the incredulity of the audience, the trial field of wheat at Kadawa demonstrated the efficacy of Borlaug’s wheat variety.
The new variety, code named “Seri-82” developed by Borlaug, brought into Nigeria yielded about 4 tons per hectare against the 1.5 tons per hectare using local variety under the same farmer’s management. Dr. Borlaug returned into the country a year after when he visited Saminaka town in Kaduna state for the maize field day. Another improved variety of maize being promoted by the same scientist that yielded about 8 tons per hectare against 2.5 tons per hectare when local variety was used.
He made another visit in 2001 when he presented a paper during the National Maize Workshop at Assembly Hall of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. It was at that workshop, he told us, the audience (I was one of them) that he was aware of the much talk about “Nigerian potential” but “people cannot eat potential and potential is only useful to us when it is converted into tangible result”. Dr. Borlaug was very optimistic that Africa will make a green revolution with appropriate support and commitment of the African leaders. His famous message at all times even at the time of his demise “take it to the farmer”. He was certainly a darling to small-scale farmers, a good ally to large farmers and a mentor/
It was at that workshop, he told us, the audience (I was one of them) that he was aware of the much talked about “Nigerian potential” but “people cannot eat potential and potential is only useful to us when it is converted into tangible result”. Dr. Borlaug was very optimistic that Africa will make a green revolution with appropriate support and commitment of the African leaders. His famous message at all times even at the time of his demise “take it to the farmer”. He was certainly a darling to small-scale farmers, a good ally to large farmers and a mentor/
Dr. Borlaug was very optimistic that Africa will make a green revolution with appropriate support and commitment of the African leaders. His famous message at all times even at the time of his demise “take it to the farmer”. He was certainly a darling to small-scale farmers, a good ally to large farmers and a mentor/inspirer/guardian to the agricultural scientists. No wonder, when one of his students developed a most promising variety of wheat, he code-named it “Norman”, after the first name of Borlaug. This new variety of wheat gives as much as 8 tons per hectare.
One of the testimonies showing Borlaug’s deep love for Africa was the event of 15th October, 2014 during the launch of innovative social enterprise projects to address hunger and poverty in Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
During the occasion, Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, President of The World Food Prize stated that “World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug’s two most ardent wishes were to promote development in Africa and to inspire the next generation”.
Thus, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), and the World Food Prize Foundation named four young entrepreneurs under age 40 as the recipients of $150,000.

hunger world
Howard G Buffett

Mr. Howard G. Buffett is another dignitary among the four men of fame whose significant contribution brought the World Food Prize Foundation to its current global rating. Howard Graham Buffett was born on 16th December 1954 to the billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Mr. Howard is an American businessman, former politician, philanthropist, photographer, farmer, and conservationist. He was named after Howard Buffett, his grandfather, and Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett’s favorite professor. He is the chairman of Howard Buffett Foundation, which was established in 1999. The foundation mission is to “catalyze transformational change, particularly for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations” The online 2015 annual report of the foundation states that fund is invested in three main areas: Food Security, Conflict
The foundation’s mission is to “catalyze transformational change, particularly for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations”. The online 2015 annual report of the foundation states that the fund is invested in three main areas: Food Security, Conflict Mitigation and Public Safety.
The support for global food security “is directed toward agricultural resource development and management for smallholder farmers in the developing world”.
The report added, “We support a range of investments in agriculture including research, conservation-based production practices, water resource management and advocacy to promote the best ideas that will have the broadest impact on the most vulnerable and under-resourced producers”. The Foundation started with total assets of less than 50 million USD in 2000 but rose to over 250 million USD in 2015.
By all measures, Mr. Howard G. Buffett is a humanitarian per excellence, this is better understood when you read his famous book “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World”.
Part of the title for this article is burrowed from the title of Howard Buffett book. This is because the overall goal of World Food Prize Foundation is to provide food to the weak and hungry through various strategies. The lesson from this book is clearly stated, “Each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in life. This is a lesson Howard learned through his passion for farming.
All farmers can expect to have about 40 growing seasons, giving them just 40 chances to improve on every harvest. This applies to all of us, however, because we all have about 40 productive years to do the best job we can, whatever our passions or goals may be”. This was certainly an inspiring statement that moves one into action (To be continued next week)
 
 

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