Rios Labrada, IAC alumni of the 1996 course on Applied Plant Breeding, received the award for his work on participatory plant breeding programmes, linking farmers knowledge to scientific researchers’ knowledge and for his contribution to the development of organic farming and low input agriculture in Cuba.
Rios Labrada started his career as a ‘traditional’ scientific researcher; a varietal researcher as he puts it. The problem in Cuba is that most farmers cannot afford expensive inputs such as seeds and fertilisers. Launching new high-yielding varieties is therefore not always very useful. If you want farmers to contribute to the country’s food security, you will have to take the farmers as the starting point. Farmers have a tremendous amount of knowledge about plants, seeds and different varieties. By involving farmers in the selection and breeding process, both farmers and researchers can learn from each other. In such a way, you can not only increase biodiversity but also improve the access of farmers to biodiversity.
In his speech of thanks, Rios Labrada emphasised the change in his personal development over the years: “At a certain moment, I discovered that my scientific breeding trials were rather useless. I had to refocus my thinking. From a traditional researcher - just breeding plants - I became a plant breeder who works together with farmers - breeding capacity.”
The award for Innovative Rural Development was launched in 2001 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the International Agricultural Centre. With this award IAC wishes to show its appreciation for the valuable work of the many alumni who have been welcomed during the past 50 years. In 2001, the prize was awarded to Mr. P.A. Patil from India for his work with small dairy farmers.
The Jury consists of Prof. Dr. A. van den Ban ( Rural Extension), Prof. Dr. A. van der Zijpp (Animal Production Systems), Prof. Dr M. Wessel (Forestry Management), Mrs. E. Leemhuis-de-Regt (Food & Nutrition) and Mr. B.P.J.M. Beuming (IAC, Co-ordinator International Training).