World Food Prize winner’s vision sown in CABI-led Plantwise programme in Myanmar

Phathril Akradejvichit
World Food Prize Laureate for 2019 Simon N. Groot, founder of East-West Seed, helped train CABI Plantwise plant doctors in Myanmar so farmers can grow more and lose less to pests and diseases (Photo: World Food Prize).

Simon N. Groot, the Dutch founder of East-West Seed, has won the World Food Prize 2019 for empowering millions of smallholder farmers in more than 60 countries earn greater incomes through enhanced vegetable production.

This includes his company – under the East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT) – working with the CABI-led Plantwise programme to train Myanmar’s first group of plant doctors who are helping farmers reduce their losses by diagnosing problems with their crops. East-West Seed also provided their expertise to CABI through a number of external factsheets provided for the Plantwise Knowledge Bank.

The 25 new plant doctors, comprising of employees from EWS, Mercy Corps and officials from the Department of Agriculture and State Agriculture Institutes, have been empowered to confidently and more accurately provide outreach through face-to-face farmer consultations. This is part of both CABI and EWS-KT’s goals of taking tried-and-tested research out into the fields to have a direct impact on farmers’ lives.

Mr Groot, who will be awarded the World Food Prize at a ceremony in the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, on 17 October, sees his company help smallholder farmers earn greater incomes through enhanced vegetable production – thereby benefiting millions of consumers with greater access to nutritious vegetables for healthy diets.

Practical plant doctor training sessions took place in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar (Photo: East-West Seed).

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, said, “Like Dr Norman Borlaug before him, Simon N. Groot has dedicated his life to improving the livelihoods of millions around the world.

“With his partner in the Philippines, he began developing vegetable varieties with enhanced disease resistance and significantly higher yields. As the use of his seeds spread throughout the Philippines and to Thailand, Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, farmers’ daily lives were uplifted and consumers benefited from greater access to nutritious vegetables.

“Mr Groot in effect developed a stunningly impactful global network of seed producers who are transforming the lives of 20 million farmers every year. For this extraordinary accomplishment, he truly deserves to be named the 2019 World Food Prize Laureate.”

Awarded by the World Food Prize Foundation, this $250,000 prize honours Mr Groot’s unparalleled achievements as the founder and leader of East-West Seed. His initiative over the past four decades has developed a dynamic, smallholder-centric tropical vegetable seed industry, starting in Southeast Asia and spreading through Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Mr Groot said, “The awarding of the World Food Prize to a vegetable seedsman is reason for excitement and gratitude but the ultimate recognition is for the millions of smallholder farmers that stepped up farming from a way of living to building a business. Small scale vegetable farming is a great way to grow rural income and employment and improve nutrition at the same time.”

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