The University of Alberta (U of A) has become the first Canadian university to recognize the efforts of a scientist known as “The father of the Green Revolution in India” by honouring him with an honorary degree.
Dr. Mombombo Sambasivan Swaminathan is a scientist who sparked an agricultural revolution in his home country of India in the 1960s, when he pioneered techniques to crossbreed a dwarf Mexican seed with Japanese seeds and Indian varieties of wheat, almost doubling India’s wheat production within two years.
“It was the catalyst that became known as the Green Revolution in India, which put the country on the road to self-sufficiency and saved the country from what many experts were predicting was eminent famine,” said Brian Heidecker, chair of the board of governors of the U of A during a public presentation to present the degree to Swaminathan.
In 1972, Swaminathan was one of the founding members of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, an organization that helped developing countries in tropic regions to increase crop yields and improve farming systems for small farmers.
Dr. Fred Bentley, a dean of the faculty of agriculture at the U of A and a good friend of Swaminathan’s, was the first chair of the institute’s board of governors and remained the chair for 10 years.
Swaminathan also co-chaired the United Nations Millennium Task Force on Hunger from 2002 to 2005. He is also a recipient of the first World Food Prize, awarded in 1987, to recognize individuals who have made a difference in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world. “Dr. Swaminathan’s work is a reminder to us all of the ability of the individual to uplift an entire society,” said Heidecker.
After he was presented with his honorary degree, Swaminathan delivered the annual Bentley Lecture on Sustainable Agriculture, named after the late Dr. Fred Bentley and Lester B. Pearson. Bentley’s career spanned over 36 years, and focused on soil fertility and nutrient quality through his work at the U of A’s Breton plots.