Thursday, May 19, 2011

Indian scientist receives Paraguayan honour

Dr Mohan Kohli, an Indian agricultural scientist received Honorary Doctorate from the San Carlos University of Paraguay on 18 May in Asuncion. This is a recognition of the contribution of Dr Kohli in the last three decades to improvement of wheat cultivation and production. The Paraguayans expressed their gratitude to Dr Kohli who is credited with the transformation of Paraguay from a wheat importer till the eighties into a wheat exporter since 2004. The wheat production of Paraguay has increased from 30,000 tons in 1978 to 1.2 million tons now. In 2010 Paraguay earned 230 million dollars from wheat exports.

Dr Kohli is a wheat specialist and is a senior scientific consultant to the Paraguayan National Wheat Programme. He started off his career with the legendary Norman Borlaug ( Nobel prize winner who contributed to the Green revolution of India) in 1971 and worked with him for six years in Mexico. In 1978 he came to South America as a regional wheat breeder. Since then he has been working in the South American countries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile. He has worked in collaboration with the governments as well as the private sector agricultural organisations and associations. He has been awarded many honours by the governments and universities of Latin American countries.

Dr Kohli has spent a total of 40 years in Latin America, of which he has lived in South America for 33 years. He is married to a Mexican. Currently he lives in Paraguay and is also working as senior technical consultant to the Argentine wheat project. Dr Kohli who speaks fluent spanish is admired and valued in the agricultural and scientific communities of Latin America. Besides developing new varieties of wheat to suit the different climates and soil conditions of South America, Dr Kohli has trained hundreds of scientists and contributed to human resource development. He has published over 150 papers and articles in USA and Latin America.

Dr Kohli did his B.Sc in agriculture from the Rajasthan Agricultural University and Masters and PhD at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.He had done Post Doctoral work in the University of California and Oregon State University. The American Society of Agronomy honoured him with a ¨International Service Award ¨ in 2010.

Dr Kohli is not just another laboratory scientist confined to the four walls and surrounded by scientific papers. He is a practical scientist with a pragmatic approach. He is passionate about agriculture. He enjoys his research and putting the outcomes of his research into practical action. He spends as much time on the fields as he does in the laboratories. He loves the company of small farmers and shares coffee in their homes. During my tours with him, I have seen myself how he is admired as a hero by the farmers of Paraguay and Argentina. He has earned the respect and admiration of the Latin Americans with his Indian humility, sincerity, brilliance and hard work. He has stimulated interest and respect for India in the rural areas of Latin America. I call him as the Agricultural Ambassador of India. In my speech at the 18 May ceremony, I thanked him for raising the flag of India in places where Indian Ambassadors have never been.

Dr Kohli is not a ivory tower scientist. He has a global vision and is concerned with food security. He has the big picture and ideas for making the world a better place. He has a heart for the poor and hungry and is committed to do his part to solve the global problem of poverty.

Dr Kohli made an inspiring presentation to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar when he was in Buenos Aires in September 2010. He advocated No-Till ( Direct Seeding) Method of cultivation for India and showed how this method has revolutionised the agriculture of South America, which is emerging as a superpower in agriculture. He has given an Action Plan to Minister Pawar for implementation of No-Till cultivation method and other measures to improve productivity and sustainable cultivation in India. He took me to the farms in Paraguay and showed me how the small farmers are successfully practising the No-Till cultivation using bullock carts and small tractors. He believes strongly that India can increase productivity, reduce soil degradation and practise sustainable farming, learning from the South American experience. He is willing to share his expertise and contribute to India.

Latin America has made use of Dr Kohli's expertise for the last 40 years....Will India take advantage of the expertise and willingness of Dr Kohli to contribute to the motherland ???