Founder of BRAC awarded World Food Prize

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC (formerly known as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), has been chosen as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate. Sir Fazle was announced as the award winner at a July 1 ceremony at the U.S. State Department.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC

Sir Fazle, who was knighted by the British Crown in 2009, has grown BRAC into the world’s largest non-governmental organization, which has helped raise at least 150 million people out of poverty.

“At a time when the world confronts the great challenge of feeding over nine billion people, Sir Fazle Abed and BRAC, the organization he founded and leads, have created the preeminent model being followed around the globe on how to educate girls, empower women and lift whole generations out of poverty,” said Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.

According to the World Food Prize, BRAC’s agricultural and development innovations have improved food security for millions and contributed to a significant decline in poverty levels through direct impacts to farmers and small communities across the globe. Today BRAC operates 18 financially and socially profitable enterprises, across health, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, education, green energy, printing and retail sectors, and has been responsible for advancements in the poultry, seed and dairy industries in Bangladesh and other countries in which it operates in Africa.

Bangladesh recently was recognized in a report from the United Nations for successfully meeting the Millennium Development Goal, to halve hunger by the year 2015. Mr. Quinn praised the leadership and policies of the Bangladesh government that led to this achievement.

Sir Fazle was born into a distinguished family in 1936 in Baniachong, in Bangladesh’s Habiganj district. His maternal grandfather was a minister in the colonial government of Bengal; a great-uncle was the first Bengali to serve in the governor of Bengal’s executive council. He attended Pabna Zilla School and went on to complete his higher secondary education at Dhaka College. He attended the University of Glasgow in Scotland where he studied naval architecture. Following that, he pursued further education and a career path in accounting, graduating from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in London in 1962.

Sir Fazle returned to Bangladesh in 1969, accepting a position with the Shell Oil Co. in Chittagong. Shortly after joining the company he was promoted to head of the company’s accounting department, but he resigned from Shell Oil in 1971. The next year he formed the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee to address the devastation suffered by the people of Bangladesh following a tropical cyclone and a nine-month war of independence from Pakistan during 1970-71.

Following initial relief efforts, the organization soon became involved in more long-term community development, with primary objectives of alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor — and was renamed the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee.

On receiving the award, Sir Fazle commented, “Being selected to receive the 2015 World Food Prize is a great honor. I consider this award recognition of the work of BRAC, which I have had the privilege to lead over the last 43 years. 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 realized that women needed to be the agents of change in our development effort. Only by putting the poorest, and women in particular, in charge of their own destinies, will absolute poverty and deprivation be removed from the face of the earth.”

Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, 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.
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