University of the Philippines Los Baños

DrRomuloDavide2015

Dr. Romulo G. Davide. The name rings a bell.  It should because former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Hilario Davide, Jr. is his brother.

He might be, as one would say, lesser known, but his credentials are equally impressive. He is a professor emeritus of UPLB, a well-loved professor of plant pathology and nematology, and an accomplished and well-published scientist and researcher. To cap off all these, he was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2012 for helping empower farmers through science.

Within agriculture circles, he has been hailed as the “Father of Plant Nematology,” for his groundbreaking research on nematode pests that infest, debilitate, and destroy agricultural crops. Dr. Davide discovered fungi (P. lilacinus and P. oxalicum) that could kill nematode pests attacking vegetables, banana, potato, citrus, pineapple, rice, and other crops. This led to the development of BIOACT, a patented biological pest control agent that is environment-friendly and a practical alternative to highly toxic and expensive chemicals.

 

 

Empowering farmers

 

 

His discovery of the fungi and consequent recognition as a nematologist would have capped his career in the academe where he practically rose from the ranks at the then UPCA. He finished M.Sc. in plant pathology at the Oklahoma State University in 1962 and Ph.D. in nematology at the North Carolina State University in 1965.

The grand design for his life’s advocacy, however, eventually emerged and took over his retirement plans. A desire to prove that “there are no barren soils, only barren minds” fueled his resolve to help farmers. Dr. Davide went home to Argao, Cebu in 1994 to implement the “Farmer-Scientist Training Program (FSTP),” selflessly using his prize money as “Outstanding Agricultural Scientist” of the Department of Agriculture.  Doing this, he risked his reputation and credibility as a scientist because Cebu, with its calcareous, rocky soil had been dismissed as unproductive even by agriculture bureaucrats.

Through the FSTP, a corn-based farming system, Dr. Davide trained an initial 50 Cebuano farmers in conducting experiments to test the efficacy of technologies in their own farms. The approach, with its values formation and marketing components, empowered and gave them a new-found dignity in their livelihood, and resulted in higher productivity in the farmer-scientists communities.

 

Creator of ripples of change

 

By mid-2000, the FSTP was creating ripples of change as an extension approach in Cebu and across the country when it enabled farmers to increase their income at least six-fold. In 2008, it was elevated into the National FSTP and has since expanded to 103 municipalities in 12 regions.

Because of the FSTP, Dr. Davide was named recipient of the prestigious Magsaysay Award. His citation read that 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 name may have never made it to the headlines of national newspapers, but he is well-respected and loved by extension workers and farm families living even in the far reaches and deep in the hinterlands of the country.  

 

 

Partners in public service

Dr. Davide has remained a staunch partner of UPLB in public service. With the passage of Republic Act 9500 or the UP Charter, UP as the National University, has been mandated to serve as a graduate, research and a public service university. Under the administration of Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., UPLB has highlighted the public service mandate in its vision “to be a globally competitive graduate and research university contributing to national development.”

Consistent with this vision, UPLB recently infused additional funding to scale up the National FSTP.  With this, Dr. Davide and UPLB will continue to reinforce each other’s efforts to make every Filipino farmer a discerning farmer-scientist -- one who wields mastery and control over the use of his/her resources and destiny, and who meaningfully benefits from national development. (JM Bo)