The World Food Prize has awarded Dr. Bram Govaerts, a native of Belgium now working from Mexico, with the 2014 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation.
The annual award recognizes researchers under 40 who emulate the scientific innovation and dedication to food security demonstrated by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug.
Govaerts earned the award for his work developing leading-edge, sustainable programs that are transforming subsistence agriculture and unsustainable farming systems in Mexico and other regions of the world into productive and sustainable production operations.
Govaerts' collaborative work with farmers has made it possible for smallholders in Mexico and other developing countries to escape hunger and poverty and improve their livelihoods. He will be formally presented with the $10,000 award on October 15, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa, as part of this year's World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue international symposium.
The 35-year-old Govaerts currently serves as Associate Director of the Global Conservation Agricultural Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
In developing his vision to help poor farmers increase food production from their existing farmland, Dr. Govaerts was inspired by World Food Prize Founder Norman Borlaug's credo: "Take It to the Farmer."
To that end, Govaerts was instrumental in framing the Mexican government's major initiative known as the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro), and, in June 2014, he assumed leadership of the entire program, with responsibility for coordinating the evolution of related projects in Latin America.
The component of MasAgro that Govaerts originally developed and has successfully led is named "Take It to the Farmer." It focuses on integrating technological innovation into small-scale farming systems for maize and wheat crops, while minimizing detrimental impacts on the environment.
Under this extension-style program, farmers on more than 94,000 hectares switched to sustainable systems using MasAgro technologies, while farmers on another 600,000 hectares are receiving training and information to improve their techniques and practices.
"Dr. Govaerts has used creative and innovative approaches in applying science to improving farming systems, to focus on farmers as development catalysts, and to restore a sense of pride among farmers and those who serve them," said World Food Prize President Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.
"Using cell phone technology and social media, YouTube videos and educational events, his work has led to impressive achievements in the adoption of his integrated technologies by farmers, policy changes at the governmental level, and institutional alignment for the implementation of conservation agriculture," Quinn added.