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Awards for outstanding achievements

Muhammad Nawaz Dhillon - outstanding achievement in the special programme for food security

A progressive small farmer, Muhammad Nawaz Dhillon’s involvement in diverse social and agricultural activities has earned him a unique position in his Pakistan farming community. Now in his early 50s, Mr Nawaz - who is married and has three children - has 30 years of farming experience in growing wheat, sugarcane, maize and cotton on his four hectare-farm. His reputation as a progressive farmer dates back to 1970 when he discovered that specially pre-pared wheat seed sown in saline soil caused yields to jump impressively. The method was widely adopted and was the first of several ways Mr Dhillon has impacted agriculture in many surrounding villages in the province of Punjab.

Over the last two decades, he has devoted himself to helping people in his community. Because of his passionate concern for alleviating rural poverty, Mr Nawaz’s help was sought for the promotion of the Special Programme for Food Security in the district. Through dialogue and good example, Mr Nawaz overcame initial resistance from 130 farmers, and convinced the farming community to adopt new technologies for crop and water management, which made the project a success. Crop yields increased from 2.6 tonnes to 5 tonnes per hectare, and additional demands from farmers for learning other technologies have outpaced the extension department’s ability to keep up.

Elected by the farmers as president of the Village Organization, which he had introduced to mobilize support for the project, Mr Nawaz used the victory of the innovative food security ideas to mobilize funds from landowners and other agencies to advance a broadened development for and by rural families. As a member of various grassroot and religious committees, Mr Nawaz over the years has attracted support and funding for medical services, free eye camps, educational scholarships and funeral expenses for needy people in his community as part of his vision “to create an ideal village.”

Virginia Muniño - outstanding achievement in integrated farming

A successful female farmer-entrepreneur, Virginia Muniño from the Philippines is the fourth of 12 children in a farming family. She embarked on a professional life, obtaining a university degree in medical technology and working in a hospital and research laboratory. At age 28, affected by the human rights situation in her native province of Cotabato, and pulled by a life-long dream of being a nun, Ms Muniño joined a socially active convent. Aspiring to help disadvantaged people, she turned to what she saw as her best skill - farming. She introduced organic methods to the convent’s farm, worked as a teacher and mentor, and at the same time furthered studies at the Southeast Asian Rural Social Leadership Institute.

Incited by the need to care for her ailing parents, she left the con-vent and returned to the family farm. She integrated a variety of fruit trees, a fish pond and a piggery, all tended by organic methods, on her 2 ha share of the land. As well, she took in four children to raise, and started working with impoverished villagers who benefited from the distribution of land under an agrarian reform programme. Within one decade, Ms Muniño, has seen her earnings increase by 40 percent, despite the challenge of an upland area affected by erosion and irrigation difficulties. But the most surprising impact has been her outreach to single-crop farmers - from around the province and outside the region - streaming in to see her ‘model’ farm, eager to learn from her knowledge. Her example as an innovative and successful farmer has encouraged poor villagers to seek industrious activities that benefit their families.

Now in her 50s and single, she is a leader in the Rural Improvement Club, the Women’s Association and a government agrarian reform project. She supports comprehensive community programmes, skills training in farming, income-generating cooperative projects, as well as non-formal education and the promotion of traditional Filipino values.

Rosukon Poompanvong - outstanding achievement in organic farming

A pioneering farmer in Thailand’s organic movement, Rosukon Poompanvong - now in her late 40s - is a woman with an uncommon spirit of generosity. Working with farmers throughout Thailand and in Europe, she has succeeded in growing and marketing top-quality agricultural produce without using artificial fertilizers. The results of her work over the past quarter century have proven to be financially profitable and, even more important, at no expense to the environment.

As a university student of agriculture in the late 1970s, working with chemically treated crops was unbecoming to Dr Rosukon because of a blood disease she has lived with since birth. To avoid the headaches, she searched for an alternative. She developed a technology to tap the full potential of soil organisms by using fermented organic waste for crop fertilization and pest protection, also effective as a feed supplement for pigs and chickens. In 1997 she set up a Health Farm in Rayong province as a centre for training in organic farming methods that also receives people seeking natural treatment against illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and blindness.

Dr Rosukon, who has a Ph.D. in alternative medicine, helped create in 1984 the Organic Agriculture Association of Thailand and seven years later, on her own with donations she had saved from practising acupuncture, she started a mobile training service to teach farmers around the country how to produce healthy foods with her enzyme method. Her mission is to help people heal themselves. Villagers from near and far come to the Health Farm to study her methods of planting, treating crops and recycling all organic waste. She also continues her mobile training, visiting three villages a week. If Thailand intends to become the kitchen of the world, Dr Rosukon is determined to make it “a good kitchen, not a toxic kitchen.”

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