Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of the renowned Bangladeshi development organization BRAC, has won the 2015 World Food Prize, “for giving nearly 150 million people worldwide the opportunity for enhanced food security and a pathway out of poverty.”
“The scale and impact of his work in Bangladesh and 10 other countries is unprecedented,” the award citation continues. “He pioneered a new approach to development that has effectively and sustainably addressed the interconnectedness between hunger and poverty.”
M. S. Swaminathan, the father of India’s Green Revolution and long-time International Development Research Centre (IDRC) research partner who chairs the prize selection committee, praised Sir Fazle as “a man with a future vision.” In 1987, Swaminathan received the first World Food Prize, which is considered agriculture's Nobel Prize.
He lauded Sir Fazle’s adaptive approach to development — “BRAC is constantly innovating” — and resourcefulness in developing a self-reliant funding model that allowed BRAC to avoid being “diverted by donor agendas.”
“He therefore set up a considerable number of commercial enterprises as part of the BRAC ‘brand,’" Swaminathan wrote. "These include printing presses, poultry and dairy industries, a hotel, conference facilities, retail outlets, and the private BRAC University.” Revenue from these enterprises helps to fund BRAC’s many development programs, providing 80% of its annual budget of $500 million.
“We congratulate Sir Fazle for this richly deserved honour,” said IDRC President Jean Lebel. “BRAC is a remarkable success story, with an impressive reach, and over the years has provided many valuable lessons in scaling up solutions.”
IDRC supports BRAC University’s Institute of Governance and Development through the Think Tank Initiative, a multi-funder program that provides core funding to 43 of the best policy research institutes in the developing world. Researchers from the institute are also contributing to an IDRC-funded study that is examining how Bangladesh can move beyond low-skill jobs to a high-skill economy.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed in Bangladeshi villageSir Fazle left his job as a Shell Oil Company executive to found BRAC in 1972. Originally conceived as a short-term relief effort, the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee responded to the devastation of the deadliest tropical cyclone on record in November 1970 and the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
Now known simply as BRAC, the organization soon turned to long-term development work – in agriculture, health, education, and income generation – that recognized the importance of women as agents of change. Sir Fazle built BRAC into the world’s largest NGO, now employing more than 110,000 people and active in other developing countries, including Afghanistan, Haiti, and South Sudan.
Sir Fazle, 79, will receive the US$250,000 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, in October. Other laureates with an IDRC connection include Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus (1994) and the pioneer of drip irrigation Daniel Hillel (2012).