- His discovery of nematode-trapping fungi (P. lilacinus and P. oxalicum) led to the development of BIOCON, the first Philippine biological control product that can be used against nematode pests attacking vegetables, banana, potato, citrus, pineapple, rice, and other crops, thus making available a practical substitute for highly toxic and expensive chemical nematicides.
- Named “Outstanding Agricultural Scientist” by the Department of Agriculture in 1994, he used his award money to launch in Colawin the “Corn-based Farmer-Scientists Training Program” (FSTP).
- An innovative and multi-faceted program, FSTP aimed, through actual field experience and interaction with experts, to turn farmers into “farmer-scientists” who would be able to do experiments, discover effective techniques, manage the market, and increase production.
- The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of Filipino farmers, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labor.”
In the Philippines, forty percent of the labor force is employed in agriculture. Yet, food insecurity continues to haunt the land, and the farmers who produce food are not only among the country’s poorest, they are also its mostly-invisible citizens. With the tools of science and a great reserve of social empathy, one remarkable individual has devoted his life to addressing these problems.
The roots of his devotion run deep. Romulo Davide was born in the mountain barrio of Colawin in Argao, Cebu province, to school teachers who raised him and his six siblings in the values of hard work, education, and community service. Davide has practiced these values all his life: doing farm work as a child, working as a student laborer to help pay his way through college, scrimping to pursue his dream of getting the highest education. Growing up in a poor farming village, in a province where the common lament was that little could be harvested from small, over-cultivated, soil-exhausted farms, he drew inspiration from what his father often said, “There are no barren soils, only barren minds.” It was thus that he decided to be an agricultural scientist.
Today, with a doctorate and advanced training in the United States and Ireland, he is one of the country’s top scientists, hailed as the “Father of Plant Nematology” for his many years of teaching and groundbreaking research on nematode pests that infest, debilitate, and destroy agricultural crops. His discovery of nematode-trapping fungi (P. lilacinus and P. oxalicum) led to the development of BIOCON, the first Philippine biological control product that can be used against nematode pests attacking vegetables, banana, potato, citrus, pineapple, rice, and other crops, thus making available a practical substitute for highly toxic and expensive chemical nematicides. Without thought of personal gain, he has seen one of his discoveries commercially marketed to fight banana nematode infestation in the Philippines, Latin America, and other parts of the world.
But Davide is more than just a groundbreaking laboratory scientist. Throughout his career, he has immersed himself in field extension work, as director of the National Crop Protection Center (1989-92) and in numerous extension programs of the University of the Philippines-Los Ba?os College of Agriculture.
In 1994, named “Outstanding Agricultural Scientist” by the Department of Agriculture, he used his award money to launch in Colawin the “Corn-based Farmer-Scientists Training Program” (FSTP). An innovative and multi-faceted program, FSTP aimed, through actual field experience and interaction with experts, to turn farmers into “farmer-scientists” who would be able to do experiments, discover effective techniques, manage the market, and increase production. Starting with seventy-four farmers in Colawin, and enlisting the support of government and academe, FSTP expanded to cover thirty-five Cebu towns and six other provinces by 2007. It proved its success when farmers were able to increase corn yields six to twelve times over, and adopted intercropping systems and animal production technologies that further increased their incomes. Recognizing this success, the national government adopted the FSTP in 2008 for countrywide implementation, with the Department of Agriculture and UP Los Ba?os as lead implementors and Davide as program leader. Today, FSTP is being implemented in twenty provinces across the country.
Clear-minded about his goals, Davide has all these years refused to be discouraged by erratic funding, bureaucratic inertia, or political interference, saying that one must learn “to walk straight even on a crooked path.” At seventy-eight, he continues to be driven by the dream that, indeed, the land can be made fertile if minds are challenged to become fertile as well.
In electing Romulo Davide to receive the 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of Filipino farmers, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labor.
His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III, Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, fellow Awardees and friends.
It is indeed a distinct honor and pleasure for me to attend this ceremony to humbly accept this prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award.
I share this honor with all the men and women, including my wife Clara, who work so hard with me in our programs to uplift the living conditions of our farmers, especially those in the upland communities who are still poor and hungry. . May this be our “footprints in the sands of time” and hope that the spirit and ideals of President Magsaysay guide and inspire us to continue this noble task with vigor and strength.
Looking back to my family’s humble beginnings, I could hardly believe that today I am here with you to receive this award.
Working closely with my students and research assistants, I developed the BIOCON for the biological control of nematode pests that attack the roots of many economic crops. For our banana exports alone the cost of imported chemicals to control nematode damage on roots was estimated at 200 million pesos a year, while BIOCON, now registered and patented as BIOACT, can effectively control nematodes at much lower costs. BIOACT, now manufactured in Germany with markets in Europe and other countries, is harmless to man and animals compared to highly toxic chemical nematicides.
FSTP was conceptualized to correct failures in government projects for countryside development where trained farmers remain poor since they can not adopt technologies introduced to them due to absence of funds. There is also a big gap between our R&D and extension activities. FSTP combines RD and E in one package to make farmers both farmer-scientists and extension workers.
FSTP was started in Argao in 1994 when Cebu was considered among the poorest provinces. Since then we have trained more than 30, 000 Filipino farmers, and Argaowanons are grateful that from a 5th class town before FSTP, Argao has become a 1st class town since 2006. FSTP is now being implemented as a National Program starting in 2008. With Department of Agriculture support funds, FSTP’s nationwide coverage can now reach out to our poorest farmers. Thus we have now Mangyan farmer-scientists in the mountains of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, and the Blaan indigenous people in the mountains of Alabel, Sarangani Province in Mindanao.
As successfully demonstrated by FSTP, small farmers can be empowered with scientific farming knowledge to produce corn for food with a surplus for sale, along with production of vegetables, fruits and livestock, increasing farmers’ income by more than 100 percent and benefiting not only their families but also their communities.
We hope more government agencies, charitable companies and friends will join us in making poor farmers improve their living conditions and produce more food for all of us Filipinos. There are stumbling blocks along the way but we must endeavor and learn to walk straight even on a crooked path. Truly, farmers are the heroes of our lands. Let us therefore recognize them with honor and dignity and support them to achieve their long desired abundant productivity and live in peace and prosperity.
Daghang salamat. Thank you.
BUT for his inability to draw a proper grasshopper, Romulo Gelbolingo Davide could well have become an entomologist, rather than his country’s ”Father of Plant Nematology,” and esteemed trainer of ”farmer-scientists.”
“My first choice for study in college was entomology, the study of insects,” confesses Davide. But he recalls in good humor that after using up an entire drawing pad, his grasshopper still resembled a mouse (“Mukhang daga pa rin yung drawing ko”). So he decided to major in plant pathology instead at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) College of Agriculture (CA) in 1953-1957, the country’s premier agricultural school. He would go on to specialize in plant nematology in the US and, returning to the Philippines, build a distinguished career of research into major plant diseases, research that has benefitted millions of farmers and food consumers worldwide.
In 1994, he pioneered the Farmer-Scientists RDE Training Program (FSTP), a program that trains marginal farmers to employ scientific methods in farming, and package and market their products effectively. Implemented countrywide in the Philippines, FSTP has lifted thousands of farmers from poverty to a new life of independence and affluence.
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