The World Food Prize Foundation has announced that Indian scientist Dr. Mahalingam Govindaraj won the Norman E. Borlaug Award 2022 for developing the world’s bio-fortified pearl millet (Bajra), endowed by The Rockefeller Foundation. On October 19, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa, he will be conferred the award at the Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue.
Bajra, a form of pearl millet, has recently gained popularity among urban Indian consumers as a nutritious meal option. The Rockefeller Foundation established the $10,000 prize each October in Lowa, US, to honor scientists under 40 for their contributions to agriculture and food items-related research. Dr. Govindraj, interestingly, is the first Indian to win the award.
Dr. Mahalingam Govindaraj works as a senior crop development scientist at Harvest Plus and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, an organization that promotes the production and consumption of bio-fortified staples. Telangana-born Mahalingam Govindaraj, an agriculture scientist, had a passion for farming in his initial year of college.
Govindaraj has been honored for his remarkable leadership in promoting bio-fortified crops, notably pearl millet, in India and Africa. Between 2011 and 2021, he was a CGIAR researcher at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The first bio-fortified pearl millet in the world, titled Dhanashakti, was developed by Govindaraj. For the unversed, Bio-fortification is a technique of boosting crop micronutrient content via breeding.
Pearl millet is a cost-effective, climate-resilient staple food crop that can greatly impact the nutrition and health of rural communities.#BFA22 recipient Mahalingam Govindaraj has helped support improved nutrition by developing iron- and zinc-rich varieties of the crop! pic.twitter.com/HmcGmI2PrW
— World Food Prize Foundation (@WorldFoodPrize) September 5, 2022
The Achievements of Govindaraj Include
- He has assisted in the development of over ten high-iron and zinc pearl millet varieties. By 2024, it is predicted that over 9 million people in India will eat iron-rich Bajra, boosting their nutrition.
- He has assisted in developing and delivering bio-fortified plant breeding resources throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and other nations, while positively influencing thousands of farmers, seed producers, processors, and consumers.
- According to a statement from the World Food Prize Foundation, conventional Bajra types only deliver 20% of the daily required iron supply for women. In comparison, 200 grams of Dhanashakti provides more than 80% of that amount. Today, Dhanashakti is cultivated in India by more than 120,000 farming households.
It’s an Honor to Receive the Award: Dr. Govindaraj
According to Govindaraj, pandemics exemplify that food and nutrition safety must coexist. “Standard crops, such as millet, must be developed for necessary nutrition, in addition to production, to treat malnutrition efficiently.” It is an honor to receive an award established for Dr. Borlaug, who has served as both an inspiration and an example for me as I’ve tried to implement a diverse range for farmers, he added.
Congratulations to Dr. Mahalingam Govindaraj for being named the 2022 Borlaug Field Award recipient!
— World Food Prize Foundation (@WorldFoodPrize) August 30, 2022
About Norman E Borlaug Award
The award was established in 2011 to commemorate Norman E. Borlaug, a young scientist whose work in Mexico in the 1940s and 1950s was significant in the effort to abolish world hunger and poverty. The Rockefeller Foundation established the $10,000 prize to honor a scientist under 40 for their contributions to agriculture and food items-related research.