Statement of Foundation President, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn
On behalf of our Chairman John Ruan III, all of the World Food Prize Laureates and our Council of Advisors, the World Food Prize Foundation extends its deepest condolences to the family of Dr. B.R. Barwale, who passed away on July 23, 2017.
The World Food Prize honored Dr. Barwale, known as the Father of India’s Seed Industry, for his innovative scientific and entrepreneurial efforts in transforming the face of Indian agriculture. He led the development and distribution of high-yielding hybrid seeds from the late 1950s through the following 50 years.
I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Barwale in 2010 and see firsthand his impressive business operation in Mumbai, the modern biotechnology research institute he had created, as well as the amazing free eye clinic that he had built near Jalna. An extremely humble man, Dr. Barwale had an enormous impact on his community and his country, beginning with India’s struggle for independence.
B.R. Barwale was born into a small agricultural family in Hingoli/Jalna in 1931 when India was still under British control, at a time when most family farms operated on a few acres of land, incomes were small, debts were high, and yields often failed to suffice even for the household that produced them.
As a young farmer, Barwale began breeding and selecting high-yielding okra seeds, which he planted on his farm and also sold to other farmers. By 1961, his success had attracted the attention of the Rockefeller Foundation, which was cooperating with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to build a private-sector seed industry in the country. Over the next three years, Barwale marketed hybrid corn and sorghum in addition to his own okra seeds.
He founded a hybrid seed company in 1964 – “Mahyco” – which targeted small-scale farms like the one he grew up on. His hope was to encourage food production and the agricultural industry by extensively involving smallholders. Barwale incorporated education and training into his distribution methods by traveling the country and giving demonstrations in rural areas. He assisted farmers in financing investments in their plots and farm technology, which led him to chair the Jalna People’s Cooperative Bank in 1965.
Mahyco initiated its own research program to test new India-specific hybrids, the quality of which drew the attention of the government. Dr. Barwale joined Seed Review Team, which outlined the development of the private seed industry across India. As Mahyco’s increasing profits were reinvested in research during the 1970s, and the product line expanded to more than 30 crop species, Barwale continued to consult with government regulators and private entrepreneurs to create a larger field of competition among India’s quality hybrid-seed producers.
Dr. Barwale’s momentous contribution to expanding the private seed industry in India resulted in over 100 private companies producing and marketing hybrid seeds to India’s farmers by the late 1990s. The level of seed distributed was more than 40 times what it had been in the early 1950s.
By the time he received the World Food Prize in 1998, over half of India’s food crops were grown using domestically produced seed, and a significant amount of privately developed crop seed was exported outside of India. Following the World Food Prize, he received the Indian government’s 2001 Padma Bhushan award for outstanding commercial and economic achievement, and the Chirmule Award in 2006 for his outstanding contribution to Indian Agriculture. He was also extensively involved in training other developing countries’ seed growers in building strong private seed industries.
A remarkable humanitarian, Dr. Barwale created the Mahyco Research Foundation (later known as the Barwale Foundation) to support scientific research in areas crucial to supporting India’s growing population. He also built the Shri Ganapati Netralaya in 1992, a state-of-the-art eye hospital in Jalna that specializes in consultations, surgeries, and postgraduate medical training. As a youth in 1947, he sacrificed and put his life at stake in India’s struggle for independence -- for which he was recognized by the President of India in 2006. In 2010, Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University conferred on him an honorary doctorate.
Envisioning and constructing a strong agricultural economy capable of sustaining food production in his country for current generations and in the future is Dr. B.R. Barwale’s magnanimous legacy to India and to the world. His achievements will continue to be enshrined at the World Food Prize Foundation so that all will know of his extraordinary contributions.
Prior to his passing Dr. Barwale prepared a written submission for our new Borlaug Blog series and it was scheduled to be posted in September. As a special tribute to Dr. Barwale we are, today, releasing what may be among his final words on the impact of the Green Revolution in India.