Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-The founding chairman of a leading rural development and anti-poverty organisation, based in Bangladesh, has won the 2015 World Food Prize.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed established Brac in 1972, which has since helped nearly 150 million people out of poverty, reports BBC.
The judging panel recognised his lifetime commitment to empowering women and helping small-holding and subsistence farmers out of poverty.
The announcement was made at the US State Department in Washington DC.
“The selection committee chose Sir Fazle because [he has built] an institution in a very difficult environment where many people thought that very little could be achieved,” explained World Food Prize president Kenneth Quinn.
“Not only that but he has built it into the largest and, many would say, the most impactful non-profit organisation in the world which now operates in 10 or more other nations.”
Dr Quinn told BBC News that the judges were also impressive by the anti-poverty innovations developed by Sir Fazle and Brac (formerly know as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) and the vast number of people it has helped lift out of poverty.
“The other element that really stood out to our selection committee was the approach he took towards educating girls and empowering women,” he added.
Shortly after founding Brac 43 years ago, Sir Fazle focused on the social and economic empowerment of women, which – at the time – was a radical departure from the conventional approach.
Sir Fazle commented: “The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty.
“In situations of extreme poverty, it is usually the women in the family who have to make do with scarce resources. When we saw this at Brac, we realised that women needed to be the agents of change.
He observed: “Only by putting the poorest, and women in particular, in charge of their own lives and destinies, will absolute poverty and deprivation be removed from the face of the Earth.”
The US$ 250,000 World Food Prize has been awarded annually since 1987 to “outstanding individuals who have made breakthrough achievements contributing to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world”.
Dr Quinn, former US Ambassador to Cambodia, said the prize was established by plant biologist Dr Norman Borlaug, described as the father of the Green Revolution and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contribution to world peace via increasing global food supplies.
“Dr Borlaug foresaw the burgeoning world population of the 21st Century and that we would be moving towards a population of seven and nine billion people,” Dr Quinn explained.
“And there would need to be the kind of innovation and breakthroughs that could increase the amount of food produced, the quality of food in terms of nutrition and also that it could be done sustainably, in a way that could preserve or enhance resources.
“He thought that there should be a prize that was equivalent of the Nobel Prize he received for agriculture and food.
“Since 1987, there have been 40 individuals who have won the World Food Prize and they come from a broad array of specialisations, from presidents to seed scientists and irrigation pioneers.
Dr Quinn added: “The prize has evolved and developed into the sort of recognition and, hopefully, the inspiration for this generation and the next generation of scientists.”