The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has named Professor MS Swaminathan, renowned agricultural scientist and Father of India's Green Revolution, and Ms Saina Nehwal, Olympic medalist, ace badminton player and youth icon of India, as ICRISAT Ambassadors of Goodwill. The recognition was conferred to them by ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar in a momentous ceremony held today at the ICRISAT global headquarters in Hyderabad, Telangana, India.
As ICRISAT Ambassadors, Prof. Swaminathan and Ms Nehwal have agreed to champion the Institute’s mission to make a difference by promoting science-based agricultural solutions in the fight against poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the dryland tropics of the world.
“Inclusive agriculture is the key to a prosperous, food secure and resilient dryland tropics,” said Prof Swaminathan. “By giving smallholder farmers access to technologies and connecting them to markets, they will have options for a more profitable and resilient agriculture towards achieving sustainable food, nutrition, economic and environmental security,” he continued.
“ICRISAT plays an important role in this through its inclusive market-oriented development strategy, particularly focusing on the need to empower resource-poor farmers in marginalized environments. I am therefore pleased and proud to be an Ambassador of Goodwill for the works and initiatives of ICRISAT.”
Prof. Swaminathan also recognized ICRISAT’s more than four decades of commitment and dedicated service to the most underprivileged sector of the world – the poor in the drylands. He highlighted challenges and opportunities facing the Institute, such as the need for crop biofortification to combat ‘hidden hunger’ caused by micronutrient deficiencies prevailing in the developing world; and science communication to inform, educate and mobilize the public on the importance of scientific innovations in the fight against poverty and hunger, and for decision makers to come up with supportive policies. Prof. Swaminathan is currently Emeritus Chair of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), and was one of the architects of ICRISAT’s creation in 1972.
"Being asked to serve is truly humbling, and the chance to make a real difference is not an opportunity that everyone is given. I proudly accept the role of ICRISAT Ambassador, and hope to inspire and encourage particularly the youth in seeing the uniqueness and importance of the works and initiatives of ICRISAT,” said Ms Nehwal.
“As an athlete, I hope I can help make people understand and appreciate the nutritional importance of ICRISAT crops such as millets and sorghum, and grain legumes such as chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut. I strongly believe these crops are important for both poor farmers and consumers because of their high nutritional value and for a diverse diet and farming, and are critical in fighting malnutrition and food insecurity,” she continued.
“Millets and sorghum, and grain legumes are good sources of endurance or energy and protein for athletes like me. Basing on scientific evidences, I will lend my voice in promoting the value of dryland cereals and grain legumes for the health and well-being of the rural poor, especially women and children,” Ms Nehwal stressed.
“We cannot be any prouder of all our Ambassadors of Goodwill, now joined by Prof Swaminathan and Ms Nehwal,” said Dr William D Dar, ICRISAT Director General.
Dr Dar continued that “ICRISAT’s success in its more than four decades of existence has been through our partners and supporters – people and institutions we work closely with globally in making the poor, smallholder farmers’ food and nutrition security and improved livelihoods firmly at the center of our activities.”
“The world will have to feed 10 billion people by 2050. Today, a billion people are hungry and about 3 billion are not eating well. To overcome poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation, science is an essential component that must be behind all our efforts. We are pleased and proud to have Prof. Swaminathan and Ms Nehwal as our Ambassadors to work closely with us and serve as our voices, in order to make a difference for the poor in the drylands,” Dr Dar added.
The ICRISAT Ambassadors of Goodwill program was launched in May 2013 with the acceptance of Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to become the first Ambassador during his visit to the ICRISAT global headquarters.
Bill Gates has since been joined by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, renowned scientist and 11th President of India; Rt. Hon. James Bolger, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria; and Dr Nigel Poole, former Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board, as ICRISAT Ambassadors.