MANILA, Philippines - The search for Southeast Asia’s top agricultural scientist/research and development (R&D) administrator is on.
The “Dioscoro L. Umali Achievement Award in Agricultural Development” is a collaboration among the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST-Philippines), and Dioscoro L. Umali Foundation, Inc. (DLUF).
The award is named after the late Dr. Umali, a long-time dean of the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA), founding director of SEARCA, and assistant director general for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO).
Hosted by the Philippine government at the UP Los Baños (UPLB), SEARCA is one of the 21 regional centers of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), an inter-government treaty body funded in 1965 to promote cooperation among Southeast Asian nations in the fields of education, science, and culture.
Given annually with a cash prize of $10,000 and a plaque, the Umali award is open to living nationals of any SEAMEO member-country whose work has brought about exceptional impact on the development of agriculture and the improvement of the quality of life in rural communities in Southeast Asia, especially among small farmers whom the late Dr. Umali had championed.
Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., SEARCA director, said the award covers achievements along fields that contribute to agricultural development, including plant and animal sciences, land and water management, environment and natural resource management, technology development, social organization, food security, poverty reduction, economics and business, policy and governance.
Four Southeast Asian, among them a Filipino, have been conferred the Umali award.
Dr. Ramon C. Barba, a retired UP Los Baños professor and scientist, was conferred the award for having developed the globally adopted mango flower induction technology, which overcame the erratic and biennial fruit-bearing characteristics of mango, thus making it available all-year round.
President Aquino recently conferred the Order of National Scientist on Barba for his “significant contributions to the field of science and technology.”
The award’s first recipient was a Vietnamese – Dr. Vo Tong Xuan. His work at the grassroots, national, and international levels in the governmental, private, and non-government sectors contributed immensely to the transformation of Vietnam’s agricultural economy from a net rice importer to the world’s second largest rice-exporter, next to Thailand.
The other awardee was Dr. Charan Chantalakhana of Thailand, whose pioneering work in cattle and buffalo genetic improvement led to the development of a new breed, called “Kamphaeng Saen”, which can grow to weight three times those of the native cattle. The new breed has helped dairy farmers reduce production cost and expand dairy herds in Thailand, Vietnam,Cambodia, and Laos.
The fourth awardee was former Indonesian Agriculture Minister Sharifudin Baharsjah, who has built institutions that undertake research, provide policy support, work with farmers, and provide scholarships, among other things, to contribute to development not only in Indonesia but also in other Southeast Asian countries.