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Dr Swati Nayak Won $10,000 & Borlaug Field Award For Her Work On Farmer Engagement And Empowerment

Dr Swati Nayak an IRRI Scientist won the Borlaug Field Award and prize worth Rs $10,000 for her work on Farmer Engagement and Empowerment.

Vivek Singh
IRRI Scientist won the Borlaug Field Award  (Photo Courtesy: Krishi Jagran)
IRRI Scientist won the Borlaug Field Award (Photo Courtesy: Krishi Jagran)

Dr Swati Nayak, a scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has been honoured with the 2023 Borlaug Field Award by the World Food Prize selection jury. Dr. Nayak's significant contributions include her instrumental role in engaging farmers in all facets of rice seed systems, from testing and implementation to facilitating access and adoption of climate-resilient and nutritious rice varieties.

Dr. Swati Nayak, a dedicated scientist with over 13 years of experience, has been awarded the prestigious 2023 Borlaug Field Award, generously funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and named after Nobel laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug. This annual accolade celebrates individuals under 40 whose outstanding scientific contributions have advanced global food production and combat hunger. Dr. Nayak's career is marked by her commitment to bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and practical applications. As the South Asia Lead for Seed Systems at IRRI and the leader of CGIAR's SeedEqual initiative, she has led extensive on-farm tests and distributed over 20 innovative rice varieties with climate resilience, high yields, biofortification, and improved nutrition. She received a prize of USD 10,000 and Borlaug Field Award.

Her outstanding contributions to agriculture include her pivotal role in establishing drought-tolerant rice varieties in India, notably Sahabhagi Dhan in Odisha. Over eight years, this variety remains popular. She also plays a vital role in the "Seeds Without Borders" international seed policy, expediting modern rice variety distribution in South and Southeast Asia. Her nomination letter by Wahida Akter, the Secretary of Bangladesh's Ministry of Agriculture, lauds her for releasing and expanding promising rice varieties from Bangladesh into India, bridging geographical boundaries to benefit farmers across borders. Nayak's work ensures research innovations reach farmers faster and on a larger scale, regardless of nationality.

Swati’s advocacy for gender inclusivity in agricultural research has led to the establishment of women-led seed enterprises, boosting productivity, income, and empowerment. Recognized by Shri Pankaj Yadav, Joint Secretary (Seeds) at the Indian Ministry of Agriculture, for her dedication to rural innovation models, Nayak's leadership in scaling participatory field research and extension has been widely replicated. Her team's efforts facilitated the production and distribution of 8.5 metric tons of high-quality seeds in 2021-2022, with over 40 percent participation by women farmers. Additionally, Nayak's collaboration with the National Rural Livelihood Mission has empowered four million women farmers through the MKSP initiative.

Swati Nayak's outstanding dedication to addressing global challenges in agriculture earned her the prestigious Borlaug Field Prize. Her impact, both in the laboratory and the field, impressed the selection panel. Nayak expressed gratitude for the award, aligning with the mission of building a resilient food system and a better world. She dedicated the honor to agriculture professionals and young women working directly with farmers.

Dr. Ajay Kohli, Interim Director General of IRRI, praised her measurable contributions to sustainable livelihoods, agricultural extension, and food security. The award was announced during New York City Climate Week, with the formal presentation set for October 24, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

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