Scientist Ram Kanwar Malik, working at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in India, has been announced as the winner of prestigious 2015 Derek Tribe Award from The Crawford Fund, for his ‘outstanding contributions to making a food secure world by improving and sustaining the productivity of the rice-wheat system of the northwestern and eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains.’
The award recognizes Malik’s more than 30 years of work in agricultural research and development dedicated to improving the livelihoods of millions of small and marginal farmers in India. He led the development of a management solution for herbicide resistant Phalaris minor, a major weed of wheat. This pioneering research resulted in saving farmers from huge yield losses, nearly one million hectares wheat, and raised wheat productivity in Haryana and Punjab, considered to be India’s grain basket, between 1992 and 2000.
Malik’s collaborative work with national and international partners and farmer participatory approaches led to achievements in the dissemination and adoption of climate-resilient technologies such as zero-tillage, laser land leveling and direct-seeded rice, as well as policy changes at the government level.
Malik currently serves as the country coordinator for India for the CIMMYT-led sustainable intensification project, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). He continues to raise productivity and smallholders’ incomes in the eastern states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, areas where rural poverty, food insecurity and yield gaps of cereal staples are among the most severe in South Asia.
More recently, Malik played an instrumental role in advocating for the early sowing of wheat in Bihar, helping farmers to double production and avoid crop failure from the early arrival of summers and higher temperatures. Malik’s team has created a network of more than 2,000 service providers to facilitate easy access of mechanized services among smallholder farmers, who are not able to buy expensive machines, helping them to benefit from modern farming technologies.
Highlighting his life-long passion for understanding the needs of farmers and for ensuring farmers’ participation in research, Malik said, “For developing countries like India where farmers are small and marginalized and investment in research is low, the development of new technologies and the process of delivery are inseparable. In fact, a top-down approach could put up barriers to the adoption of new technologies. Listening to farmers and tailoring technologies to serve their needs thus become paramount.”
The Derek Tribe Award, given by the Australia-based Crawford Fund, is made biennially to a citizen of a developing country in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the application of research in agriculture in a developing country. Sanjaya Rajaram, World Food Prize winner and the previous director of the Wheat Program at CIMMYT, is among the past recipients of the Derek Tribe Award.