Cebu farmer-scientist Davide wins Magsaysay award

Posted on September 1, 2012


To make the Philippines prosper, the farmers must be made rich.

This conviction of Dr. Romulo Davide, Cebuano agriculturist and the Philippine’s 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, may get fresh support after he received the international award last night in Pasay City.

President Benigno Aquino III handed out the award, the Asian equivalent to the Nobel peace prize, to Davide and five other achievers from Indonesia, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, and Cambodia.

“If the farmers are rich, the town becomes rich, [and] the Philippines becomes rich,” Davide said during a lecture last Thursday.

He explained the Farmer-Scientist Training Program which he pioneered in his hometown of Argao, south Cebu in 1994.

By learning from scientists about high-yielding crops and modern agriculture techniques, local farmers suffering in poverty were able to make at least P125,000 a year compared to almost zero before the program, he said in a lecture paper.

The neglected role of agriculture development is something for which Davide’s award may be able to generate new momentum.

In 2008, Executive Order 710 was issued by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2008 adopting the FSTP program nationwide, but it was still lacking in implementation, he said.

Davide said the program needs to be accelerated and expanded with the help of government agencies as well as local governments.

“[The farmers] have no right to be poor. And we have no right to keep them poor. [But] that’s what’s happening,” Davide said.

For six years he served a as a P1-a-year consultant of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to lead the program in the province. This changed after the 2010 election, when his nephew Hilario “Junjun” Davide III, ran for governor against Garcia and the program was suddenly replaced by another one.

About 15 Davide family members attended last night’s Magsaysay awards, inlcuding his younger brother, former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. with wife Virginia, elder sister Paz, and nephew Junjun.

Junjun Davide, Liberal Party chairman for Cebu province and a gubernatorial candidate, told Cebu Daily News that if he’s elected to the Capitol in 2013, “I will retap my uncle and continue his FSTP which will be expanded and given adequate support by the provincial government. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. “

He was asked how important farming was in a Cebu economy driven by services, Business Process Outsourcing, tourism and the remittances of Overseas Foreign Workers.

“Without it (agriculture), who’s going to feed the people involved in these industries?” he said.

Davide, 78, is well known in the academe and science circles as the “Father of Plant Nematology” for his groundbreaking research on nematode pests that infest and destroy agricultural crops.

He aquired his BS Agriculture degree from the University of Los Banos (1957), masters degree from the Oklahoma State University (1962), and his PhD from the North Carolina State University (1966).

In the Farmer-Scientist Training Program (FSTP), a scientist would partner with farmers to teach them science-based agricultural skills to help increase their crop production.

In communities where Davide experimented this partnership, farmers increased production by more than 100 percent. They used to produce half a ton of corn per hectare but now are able to produce four to six tons per hectare, he said in the Thursday lecture.

Farmers also learned about organic fertilizers such as chicken manure and vermi-compost, which are more eco-friendly, effective and cheaper than chemcial-based fertilizers which allowed them to save more than 50 percent in production costs.

Farmers were also taught to become volunteer technicians so they can teach other farmers. They also established cooperatives and associations, with some farmers going on to become local government leaders who actively worked for community development.

Because of the increased capabilities, production, and income of the farmers in Argao, the municipality rose from being a 5th class municipality to a 1st class municipality in 2006.

Davide has since expanded the FSTP program to 37 towns in Cebu and trained more than 30,000 farmers nationwide.

He said in his lecture paper that the program “successfully demonstrated that poor farmers can be technically empowered through direct contact with agricultural scientists/experts to improve their living conditions beyond the poverty level.”

“It has shown that farmer-scientists can also freely share their expertise to untrained fellow farmers as volunteer technicians in their respective barangays,” Davide said.

“Moreover, FSTP-trained farmers also have developed the sense of leadership in their community development projects or became barangay officials themselves.”

According to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, Davide was cited for “his steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of Filipino farmers, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labor.”

Davide received prestigious awards in the past, including the Gregorio Y. Zara Award for Applied Science by the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science, Inc. (1986), Jose Rizal Pro Patria Gold Medal Award by the Philippine government (1994), and the Outstanding Agricultural Scientist by the Department of Agriculture (1994).

For 2012, six individuals received the Magsaysay award for their contributions in various fields.

Other 2012 awardees are Chen Shu-Chu from Taiwan, Kulandei Francis from India, Syeda Rizwana Hasan from Bangladesh, Yang Saing Koma from Cambodia, and Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto from Indonesia.

They each received a certificate, Magsaysay medallion, and $50,000 cash prize. /With Inquirer, and Correspondent Carmel Loise Matus

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