Norman Borlaug, an American agronomist throughout the 1900s, is considered to be the father of the Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution enhanced agricultural production globally, largely shaping research and its landscape into what we know today. In 1970, Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in pioneering this revolution and his research to combat world hunger.
The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and Development, also known as The Borlaug Institute, continues to work through his legacy at Texas A&M University (TAMU). The organization currently works on projects in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the Middle East as well as North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Jack Elliot, Ph.D., Regional Director for Africa at The Borlaug Institute, currently oversees the organization’s projects in Africa.
Elliot views his work in Africa as similar to TAMU’s work with the extension. Sometimes, those who work for the university do not realize that the farmers or agriculturalists who work daily in these fields can offer innovative solutions to agricultural problems.
“Sometimes at universities, we forget that people who live and work in the agricultural world are really innovators and maybe ahead of the science and the technology at the university,” Elliot said. “I see the same thing in Africa where you're going around and you're seeing people that rely on agriculture for their livelihood. They often have very unique solutions to agricultural problems that can surprise even the most senior researchers.
Elliot works on projects throughout Africa including working directly with the African Union to aid all 54 countries and eight regional economic communities (REC).
“The continent of Africa is organized a little bit like Europe where they have an African Union versus the European Union. So, we've been working with the African Union, on what they call sanitary and phytosanitary policies,” Elliot said. “Those are the core policies that you need to aspire to, to reach international standards in plant health, animal health, and food safety. That's critical if you're going to improve and expand as a global trading partner.”
Some of the projects Elliot is currently working on involve combating growth stunting from malnourishment, desalinating water to make drinkable, as well as solar and wind energy programs to create renewable energy in Namibia. Through each project, Elliot and The Borlaug Institute strive to uphold Borlaug’s mission by working to eventually end world hunger.
“We have a mission, if you will, that’s pretty strong and I believe in it. It says … continuing Dr. Borlaug's legacy by helping to elevate smallholder farmers out of poverty and hunger through ag sciences,” Elliot said. “But the purpose, the important reason, is food security. It's hunger. In today's world, there are so many children in developing countries that go to bed, not just hungry, but malnourished.”
The work that Elliot and The Borlaug Institute perform in Africa as well as globally is all part of an effort to simply give those who currently live in these situations a better life.
“[People who live] in those kinds of situations, should be provided the educational opportunities to achieve a better life,” Elliot said. “Not to impose our values and our lives on them, but to give them the opportunities, the wherewithal to improve the health and the wellbeing and education level.”
As agricultural technology and research continue to progress, The Borlaug Institute strives to improve the availability of resources, food, and education to all of those affected.
“Life is short, make a difference. And that's really what we operate under,” Elliot said. “If you looked at it from a great big picture, we should work hard enough that we go out of business, right?”
For more information on The Borlaug Institute’s mission and current work, visit https://borlaug.tamu.edu/.
Photo courtesy of The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and Development