Bihana Didi: The Third Indian Scientist to Receive Norman Borlaug Award
Dr Pravesh Kumar Gupta, Associate Fellow, VIF

As the industrial and service sectors have overgrown, agriculture’s share of the Indian economy has steadily decreased to less than 15%. However, the importance of agriculture in India’s economic and social fabric goes much beyond the boundaries of this statistic. A large portion of India’s underprivileged population resides in rural areas, and more than three-quarters of Indian households rely on rural income (mainly from agriculture). Additionally, to meet the demands of a rising population, India’s food security depends on the increasing output of cereal crops and fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Against this backdrop, developing a productive, competitive, diverse-ranging and sustainable agricultural sector is essential by employing a range of novel technology and practices. One big encouragement in this regard has been the announcement of the Norman Borlaug Award for 2023. Swati Nayak, commonly known as Bihana Didi (Seed Lady), is set to receive the coveted Borlaug Field Award in 2023 for her extraordinary achievements in the field of agricultural and food production.

Swati Nayak currently serves as a scientist and holds the South Asia lead for seed system and product management position at the CGIAR-International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. This award honours her pioneering work in developing demand-driven rice seed systems that empower smallholder farmers, with a particular emphasis on nutrient-dense and climate-resilient rice varieties.

Dr. Nayak, who supervises the Seed System and Product Management for South Asia at IRRI, will receive this prestigious award on October 24, 2023, during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. This award, named after the eminent agricultural scientist and Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, is given each year to an individual under 40 whose work significantly enhances global food production and aids in alleviating poverty and malnutrition. Nayak will get $10,000 and an award diploma as part of this accolade for her significant contributions to food security and nutrition.

Swati Nayak’s outstanding 13-year career has made an indelible mark on agricultural innovations. She supervised over 10,000 on-farm and comparative experiments and interactive assessments of over 500 rice varieties. Her efforts have resulted in the spread of more than 20 essential path-breaking varieties. These rice varieties are climate-resilient, bio-fortified, high-yielding, and more nutritious. It has all been accomplished through innovative seed systems and scaling channels across many nations.

Swati Nayak’s notable achievements include creating the drought-resistant rice variety Shahabhagi Dhan in Mayurbhanj, Odisha. Shahabhagi Dhan is still one of the most sought-after rice products in Odisha and the rest of India. Not only in India, but BihanaDidi’s influence transcends national boundaries. She was instrumental in developing “Seeds without Borders,” an international seed policy agreement that expedites the spread of current rice varieties throughout South and Southeast Asia. Her work in this area has substantially contributed to global food security.

In addition to her groundbreaking research, Swati Nayak has substantially impacted empowering women in agriculture through her collaboration with the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), a project led by the Indian government and the World Bank. Her initiatives have fostered greater gender inclusivity and participation in agriculture-related activities. Her receiving this award will further empower and encourage women’s more significant role in scientific innovations.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

Image Source:

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
3 + 14 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
Contact Us