News Archive

posted 08/12/02

Contact: Jayson White of the World Food Prize
(515) 245-3794 or jawhite@worldfoodprize.org

In "Historic" Selection, Cuban Native Named 2002 World Food Prize Laureate

(Toronto) Dr. Pedro Sanchez, a native Cuban and graduate of Cornell University in the United States, has been selected to receive the $250,000 World Food Prize in 2002.

Dr. Sanchez' selection was announced on August 11 by Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of The World Food Prize Foundation, at the opening plenary session of the XXVI International Horticultural Congress in Toronto, Canada. Ambassador Quinn noted, "This is an historic occasion as it appears that The World Food Prize is the highest scientific honor ever presented to a native of Cuba." "As this award is being presented in the 100th year of Cuban Independence, Cubans everywhere have occasion to express great pride in Dr. Sanchez' remarkable accomplishments," added the Ambassador.

Dr. Sanchez, a citizen of the United States, is currently a visiting professor of tropical resources at the University of California at Berkeley's College of Natural Resources.

Ambassador Quinn remarked that Dr. Sanchez has been selected for his groundbreaking contributions to reducing hunger and malnutrition throughout the developing world by transforming depleted tropical soils into productive agricultural lands. As the leader of the North Carolina State University Rice Research Program in the 1970s, Dr. Sanchez helped guide Peru to dramatically improve its national food security, achieving self-sufficiency in rice production within three years, and achieving among the highest rice yields in the world. Next, Dr. Sanchez developed a comprehensive approach to soil management which enabled 30 million hectares (75 million acres) of marginal Brazilian land, known as the Cerrado, to be brought into production -- the single largest increase in arable agricultural land in the last half-century.

Most recently, Dr. Sanchez served as Director General of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), a Future Harvest center of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) located in Nairobi. There, Dr. Sanchez has led the scientific research effort to provide smallholder farmers in Africa and Southeast Asia with the means to replenish crucial nutrients in exhausted soils, through the development and promotion of agroforestry. The practice of planting trees adjacent to crops has provided nearly 150,000 farmers in Africa with a way to fertilize their soils inexpensively and naturally, without relying on costly chemical fertilizers.

Ambassador Quinn added that, "Dr. Sanchez is also being honored for having played a critical role in establishing real alternatives to slash-and-burn farming, which has destroyed millions of acres of rainforest, as well as his work in driving the international effort to establish agroforestry as a means of mitigating global warming, by removing millions of tons of CO2 from the air.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, remarked that "Dr. Sanchez' achievement gives hope that the Green Revolution can finally be extended to Africa." Reflecting his enormous contributions, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations has honored Dr. Sanchez by appointing him to Chair the UN Taskforce On World Hunger as part of the UN Global Millennium Development Project.

The Laureate Story:

 

Dr. Sanchez' Childhood and Education
Dr. Sanchez was born in Havana in 1940. The son of an agronomist, as a young boy he often traveled with his father around the island of Cuba observing his father's efforts to convince farmers and sugarcane producers to use fertilizers more effectively. Dr. Sanchez credits this early experience as his inspiration for his studies in agricultural science at Havana's Collegio de la Salle. In 1958 he came to the United States and enrolled at Cornell University where he received his BA, MA, and Ph.D. degrees.

Bringing Peru the Highest Rice Yields in the World in Just Three Years
Following research for his doctoral dissertation at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, Dr. Sanchez accepted a position at North Carolina State University, and was sent to lead NC State's Rice Research Team in Peru. Dr. Sanchez literally carried into Peru new "miracle rice" seeds which he, working closely with Peruvian officials, helped spread around the country. The impact was immediate and dramatic, with Peru becoming self-sufficient in rice in just three years.

It was in the Peruvian Amazon that Dr. Sanchez encountered for the first time the widespread belief that tropical soils were useless for agricultural production as well as the devastating environmental effects of bulldozer land clearing and slash and burn agriculture. This observation and the expansion of the North Carolina State University program to Brazil convinced Dr. Sanchez to search for the means to transform tropical soils and obviate the need for bulldozer land clearing and slash and burn agriculture.

The Largest Expansion of Agricultural Land in the Last Half-Century
Dr. Sanchez was at the head of the effort to develop a comprehensive approach to soil management in the Cerrado, an enormous area of unproductive soil in Brazil, equivalent in size to Western Europe.

Through painstaking research, Dr. Sanchez' team and officials of the newly established Brazilian Agricultural Research Program- EMBRAPA- eventually discovered the formula that would permit the Cerrado to blossom. By calculating the precise depths and intervals at which to treat the soil with a carefully balanced package of minerals and fertilizers, the previously infertile tropical soils came to life. Thirty million hectares (75 million acres) were made productive. Average yields increased by 60 percent. Soybean production became on par with the United States, and the Brazilian grain harvest tripled.

Bringing The Green Revolution to Africa
In 1991, Dr. Sanchez accepted a position as the head of ICRAF in Nairobi, Kenya. There, he quickly discovered that African agricultural production lagged due to the extremely depleted nature of the soil. Dr. Sanchez' most enduring contribution to ending world hunger has been his development of the means to replenish crucial nutrients in exhausted soils, through the development and promotion of agroforestry. This practice of planting trees on farms, when combined with adding locally available rock phosphate to the soil, has provided farmers in Africa with a way to fertilize their soils inexpensively and naturally, without relying on costly chemical fertilizers.

The 150,000 small scale farmers who are utilizing Dr. Sanchez' methods are experiencing greatly increased yields, in some cases 200% to 400% above previous plantings. In response to this success, ICRAF plans to help African farmers plant 5.5 billion more trees over the next decade, the equivalent of another tropical rainforest. ICRAF's goal is to move 20 million people out of poverty and remove more that 100 million tons of CO2 from the air with this project.

The 2002 World Food Prize Events

Dr. Sanchez will receive his award in Ames, Iowa, USA, at a special Laureate Award Ceremony at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium on the campus of Iowa State University at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, October 24, 2002.

The ceremony will be held in conjunction with The 2002 World Food Prize International Symposium, "From the Middle East to the Middle West: Managing Freshwater Shortages and Regional Water Security," which will feature speakers from Israel, The West Bank, Syria, The United Arab Emirates and individuals such as Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of The World Food Programme, and 2001 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen.

The World Food Prize Foundation, which makes this prize possible, is endowed by the John Ruan Trust. The Foundation is located in Des Moines, Iowa.

Additional information on World Food Prize Laureates and programs can be obtained at http://www.worldfoodprize.org

Media seeking photographs of Dr. Sanchez and interviews before August 11 should contact Jayson White at The World Food Prize Foundation at (515)245-3794 or jawhite@worldfoodprize.org

The World Food Prize, created in 1986 by 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, is the world's foremost award inspiring and recognizing breakthrough contributions to improving human development by increasing the quality, quantity, and availability of food in the world.

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