Filipino farmer-scientist bags Asia’s ‘Nobel Prize’
The prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award also recognized 5 other Asians who have demonstrated transformative leadership

MANILA, Philippines – Romulo Davide, a 78-year-old agricultural scientist, is among the 6 recipients of the prestigious 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

In giving Davide the recognition, the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation (RMAF) recognized his “steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of Filipino farmers, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labor.”

Davide is considered the “Father of Plant Nematology” for his groundbreaking work on nematode pests that weaken and destroy agricultural crops.

His extensive research enabled him to discover the fungi (P. lilacinus and P. oxalicum), which was crucial in the production of the first-ever Philippine biological control product that fought nematode infestations common in vegetables, rice, and fruits, among others.

More importantly, the product became an alternative to the highly toxic and expensive chemical nematicides which poor farmers could not afford. Nematicides are chemical pesticides used to control parasitic pests.

Davide, who was named an “Outstanding Agricultural Scientist” by the Department of Agriculture in 1994, is currently a professor emeritus at the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines Los Baňos.

The foundation also recognized 5 other Asians who have demonstrated transformative leadership through environmental justice, farmer education, women economic empowerment, and good education for the young.

Chen Shu-Chu, a vegetable vendor from Taiwan, is being recognized for “the pure altruism of her personal giving, which reflects a deep, consistent, quiet compassion, and has transformed the lives of the numerous Taiwanese she has helped.”
Kulandei Francis, a social worker from India, is given the award for “his visionary zeal, his profound faith in community energies, and his sustained programs in pursuing the holistic economic empowerment of thousands of women and their families in rural India.”
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, a legal activist from Bangladesh is being cited for “her uncompromising courage and impassioned leadership in a campaign of judicial activism in Bangladesh that affirms the people’s right to a good environment as nothing less than their right to dignity and life.”
Yang Saing Koma, an agronomist from Cambodia, is being recognized for “his creative fusion of practical science and collective will that has inspired and enabled vast numbers of farmers in Cambodia to become more empowered and productive contributors to their country’s economic growth.”
Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto, an environmentalist and social entrepreneur from Indonesia, has been chosen for “his sustained advocacy for community-based natural resource management in Indonesia, leading bold campaigns to stop illegal forest exploitation, as well as fresh social enterprise initiatives that engage the forest communities as their full partners.”

“There is one thing these Magsaysay laureates share: a greatness of spirit which infuses their distinct leadership for change. Working with others, they all single-mindedly apply their skills to their passion for improving the lives of others. They all refuse to give up, despite adversity and opposition. They are all deeply rooted in hope,” RMAF President Carmencita Abella said.

The 6 awardees will join the ranks of 290 other recipients of Asia’s highest honor to date when they are conferred the award in presentation ceremonies to be held on Aug 31, 2012 at the Philippine International Convention Center, to which the public is cordially invited.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award was created in 1957 in honor of the late President Magsaysay, who in the same year died in a plane crash. Known as the “Man of the masses,” Magsaysay was well-loved for his simplicity, humility, and passion for justice, particularly for the poor. –

Photos from Ramon Magsaysay Foundation