March 12, 2010 - B. R. Barwale: Entrepreneur and Humanitarian
|Laureate Spotlight: Dr. B.R. Barwale 1998, India|
|Shri Ganapati Netralaya eye clinic in Jalna|
March 12, 2010 - - Known as the father of the commercial Indian seed industry, Badrinarayan Ramulal (B.R.) Barwale has held a lifelong conviction that technological innovation is the key not only to improving the quantity and quality of food crops but also to improving human health and well-being.
The 1998 World Food Prize Laureate is one of the pioneers of the green revolution and agricultural biotechnology in his country. As a young farmer in the late 1950s, Dr. Barwale was growing crops with higher and higher yields as he began using innovative irrigation and other advanced techniques. He shared the seeds from his improved okra, hybrid corn, and sorghum with other farmers, and his successes led him to work with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to build a private-sector seed industry.
By the mid-1960s, Dr. Barwale founded Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, known as Mahyco, which aimed its expanded production and distribution at small-scale farmers. He traveled the country giving demonstrations in rural areas, providing training to illiterate farmers, and assisting them with securing financing for investments in farm technology for their plots.
Mahyco produced seeds of more than 30 crop species by the 1970s and today employs over 100,000 self-managing contract growers and several thousands more in seed production, processing, and distribution. It operates the Mahyco Life Sciences Research Center in Jalna, a premier biotechnology facility.
Always a proponent of competition in the industry, Dr. Barwale has been a champion of its growth that includes over 100 private seed companies, which together produce more than 40 times the output of the 1950s.
Dr. Barwale is also a remarkable humanitarian. He created the Barwale Foundation to support scientific research in areas crucial to good nutrition and well-being for India’s growing population. He donated his World Food Prize cash award to support research and testing of various hybrid varieties.
In 1992 he founded Shri Ganapati Netralaya, a state-of-the-art eye hospital in Jalna that services over 400 patients a day. According to Dr. Barwale, the aim of the facility is “to provide excellent eye care facilities to all our patients and I hope we can expand our reach to as many people as possible.” He and his family personally cover 95 percent of the hospital’s operating costs.
In addition to the World Food Prize, Dr. Barwale has received numerous international awards including the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian honor, in 2001.