BHUBANESWAR, INDIA - February 13, 2017 – Dr. Matthew Morell, Director General of the International Rice Research Institute, was presented with an Honorary Doctorate today at the 36th Convocation of the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT).
The annual convocation of OUAT, the second oldest agricultural school in India, was presided over by His Excellency, the Governor of Odisha and Distinguished Honorable Chancellor, Dr. S.C. Jamir. In attendance was the Honorable Sj. Pradeep Maharathy, Pro-Chancellor and Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries & Animal Resources Development, Odisha; Professor S. Pasupalak, Distinguished Vice-Chancellor, OUAT; the Registrar of OUAT; members of the Board of Management and Academic Council; as well as a wide section of faculty, graduands, and their families.
“I’m truly touched by the kindness and significance of this gesture,” stated Dr. Morell. “This speaks to the importance of the budding partnership between the International Rice Research Institute, the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, as well as the Government of Odisha and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research.”
Established in 1962 in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, OUAT delivers responsive agricultural education to meet the growing and changing needs of the farming community and society. With four academic campuses across Odisha and eight constituent colleges, it offers a dynamic agricultural education system to produce skilled graduates capable of handling new and emerging challenges in the area of research, extension, and industry.
“There are such significant global agriculture challenges in our midst and we cannot meet these challenges alone,” Dr. Morell asserted. “It is only through collaborations with our academic and government partners and the support of our funders that we can begin to band together to address these global challenges. I am optimistic that IRRI, OUAT, and the government of Odisha, within the collaboration framework administered by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, can accomplish great things together.”
In speaking to the graduating class during the convocation as the invited Chief Guest, Dr. Morell asserted, “There is no better time in history to be an agricultural scientist.”
He went on to itemize the challenges facing the 2017 graduating class of agricultural scientists, including inexorable population growth, pressure on scarce water resources, the cost and availability of fertilizer, a scarcity of labor borne through urban migration, aging farmer populations, and the need to empower women and youth in agriculture.
“The end result is that we must produce much more with less,” stated Dr. Morell. “For example, in rice, to meet the world's demand over the next 25 years, we will have to produce about 25% more rice, but this will have to be produced from less land, with less labor, with fewer inputs.”
In the face of this myriad of global agricultural challenges, however, Dr. Morell extolled the value of the current revolution in biology—particularly in genomics, the information revolution, and advances in engineering as a means to begin to address these issues. Genomics today is providing the means to develop high-yielding rice that is more resilient, more tolerant, and meets the needs for nutrition and quality. At the same time, the information revolution is providing farmers with decision support tools, disease diagnostics, climate information, and market and trade information. Advances in engineering mean that the drudgery is taken out of agriculture and that women farmers can juggle the multiple demands of family life, farming, and the need to provide nutrition and health opportunities for their children.
Even in the face of such significant global challenges, the Chief Guest remained optimistic. “In your professional lives, advances will come that we cannot even imagine today,” he told the graduands. “There are great challenges, but there are great opportunities to make a difference. The future is there for those brave enough to embrace it.”