On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 I asked for articles about Norman Borlaug from my friends when I got this email digest link on a retrospective on Norman Ernest Borlaug. Immediately Siva sent me the pdf and also mentioned that he “talks about Borlaug in soil ecology and south east asia conservation. 3-4 slides only with Ehrlich saying millions would starve and then came along Borlaug with dwarf spring wheat…” Siva, NUS Biodiversity lecturer, also mentioned that he had seen an episode in the West Wing that mentioned Borlaug. He blogged about it here, as I discover.
Norman Borlaug’s scientific contribution and industry was compelling and something I felt I could share with my science class. So I did up a just-in-time lecture. It’s true that when you teach, you learn twice as my landlady used to say. So the more I did up my slides, the more I learnt of his enormous contribution to alleviating hunger. We’ve heard so much about the Green Revolution but when I dip-stick any class about who Norman Borlaugh was, I get blank stares. Then again, lots of people I know don’t even know what types of food are made from wheat flour. And here was a man who almost single-handedly solved world hunger; and for India and Pakistan, their wheat yields went from famine levels to levels of self-sufficiency in just over half a decade, with India going on to becoming a net wheat exporter.
Within a few days of doing up the JIT lecture, I heard that the National Institute of Education was hosting Dr. M. Vijaya Gupta, World Food Prize Laureate who would talk about his fish programme in Bangladesh in the 1980s. The stories of how women become empowered through rural aquaculture were riveting and heartwarming.
It became a need for me now to package this into some sort of programme for students to get a more first-hand experience of “food”. So that was how the Raffles “World Food Programme” was born. Interestingly, this food programme idea got people I spoke to, more interested than when i spoke about any other science workshops or electives that I have carried out. Food is such a common denominator.
and our first harvest of pak choy. Extremely delicious with a taste of the earth.
And just when I thought food issues were not going to be resurfaced again, Nature.com publishes a special feature entitled “Can science feed the world?” yesterday.