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Poverty campaigner wins "alternative Nobel"

Herren has dedicated many years of his life to Africa Keystone

An agriculture expert, who has pioneered visionary methods of ensuring sustainable food supplies in poverty-stricken regions, has become the first Swiss person to win the so-called “alternative Nobel Prize”.

This content was published on September 26, 2013 - 14:51
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Hans R Herren, founder of the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, was one of four people to be made a Laureate this year by the Swedish-based Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

The 65-year-old was cited for "his expertise and pioneering work in promoting a safe, secure and sustainable global food supply”.

Herren is credited with saving the lives of millions of Africans by successfully halting the destruction of cassava crops by mealy bugs, a plant pest. Herren identified a particular wasp, found in Paraguay, as a far more ecologically sound and effective weapon to use against the bugs than pesticide spraying.

Under his guidance, 1.6 million wasps were dropped from aircraft across 24 African countries between 1982 and 1993. The bugs’ natural enemy contained the problem far better than any chemical.

List of honours

Herren founded Biovision in 1998 with the aim of encouraging ecological farming methods in Africa that would increase the chances of sustainable food supplies. The foundation’s message and practical information reaches millions of farmers via newspapers, radio programmes and an internet site.

During his 26 years living and working in Africa, Herren held positions in many leading global research groups, such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi.

The graduate of Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology has won a number of international awards, including the World Food Prize (1995), the One World Award in 2010 and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement from the University of Southern California in 2003.

Livelihood awards were also handed out to anti-chemical weapons activist Paul Walker of the United States, Palestinian human rights campaigner Raji Sourani and Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for his work in helping women survivors of war-time sexual violence.

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