WASHINGTON — Daniel Hillel, an Israeli scientist who pioneered an innovative way of bringing water to crops in arid and dry-land regions, has been named the 2012 World Food Prize laureate. Dr. Hillel was announced as the winner of the award at a June 12 ceremony at the U.S. State Department.
“This year we honor Dr. Daniel Hillel, a scientist from Israel, for his pioneering work in the Middle East that revolutionized food production in that region and around the world,” said Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation. “Dr. Hillel laid the foundation for maximizing efficient water usage in agriculture through a method known as micro-irrigation, which has impacted millions of lives.”
Mr. Quinn emphasized the importance not only of Dr. Hillel’s scientific achievement but also of his dedication to working with people across borders, to help improve food security for all.
“Confronting hunger can bring diverse people together across even the broadest political, ethnic, religious or diplomatic differences,” Mr. Quinn said. “Dr. Hillel’s work and motivation has been to bridge such divisions and to promote peace and understanding in the Middle East by advancing a breakthrough achievement addressing a problem that so many countries share in common: water scarcity. It is significant that Dr. Hillel’s nomination for the World Food Prize contained letters of support from individuals and organizations in Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.”
Dr. Hillel was born in the United States but raised in Israel. He was first drawn to the issue of agriculture and water scarcity during his days living in the highlands of the Negev Desert.
His research led to a dramatic shift from the prevailing method of irrigation. Previously, in the first half of the 20th century, farmers typically applied large amounts of water in brief periodic episodes of flooding to saturate their fields, followed by longer periods of manufactured drought to dry out the soil. The new methods conceived and developed by Dr. Hillel applied water in small but continuous amounts directly to plant roots, dramatically cutting the amount of water needed to nourish crops, maintaining their consistent health and resulting in higher crop yields to feed more people.
“My joy and gratitude at being granted the World Food Prize this year is tempered by the realization that the work this award recognizes is far from complete,” Dr. Hillel said. “The task of improving the sustainable management of the Earth’s finite and vulnerable soil, water, and energy resources for the benefit of humanity while sustaining the natural biotic community and its overall environmental integrity is an ongoing and increasingly urgent challenge for our generation and for future generations. Meeting this challenge will require enhanced global cooperation and integrated scientific research. It is a task, indeed a collective responsibility, that we cannot shirk and must indeed broaden and intensify.”
Dr. Hillel formally will be awarded the World Food Prize along with $250,000 at the 26th Annual Laureate Award Ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol on Oct. 18, in conjunction with the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug created the World Food Prize in 1987. It is the foremost international award recognizing individuals who have contributed landmark achievements in increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.