Alysson Paulinelli – Brazil

Few people who are not involved in the field will have heard of the Brazilian Alysson Paulinelli. It is impossible to sum up the life and experiences of this remarkable 84-year-old in a few lines. These are just a few of his roles: university professor, founder of the Brazilian research organization Embrapa (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agrícola), minister of agriculture, MP.

Paulinelli is an agronomist who has revolutionized farming methods in the tropical savannahs. Brazil is home to one of the biggest savannah regions in the world, the Cerrado, which occupies around 22% total surface area. We should remember that Brazil covers an area twice the size of the entire EU or 22 times that of Norway, and that only 9% of that area is farmed (see the image).

Tropical savannah has a hot, semi-humid climate, with two main seasons of more or less equal length: the dry season and the rainy season. The soil is generally chemically and nutritionally poor and thus not in theory suited to agriculture. It is thanks to the agronomic and soil correction techniques developed by Paulinelli and his fellow researchers at Embrapa that part of the Cerrado is today being cultivated, providing livestock, cereals, soya, beans, maize and rice. The agronomic techniques used have been studied and adapted for every savannah in the world, providing foodstuffs that make a notable contribution to combating hunger, especially in the poorest countries with the fewest food resources. It is no accident that in 2006 Paulinelli was awarded the World Food Prize, equivalent to a Nobel prize for food and given to those who have brought about considerable improvement in the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

That’s not all. This agronomist has always believed firmly in the abilities of human beings and the potential of science. Right back when he was ‘just’ a university professor, he oversaw the creation of study grants for young researchers in agronomy, allowing them to go and study in the most advanced research centres in the world. They numbered in the thousands, and today they form the backbone of agricultural research throughout Brazil and are in the vanguard of the creation of an agriculture that is compatible with environmental limits.

If we listen to Paolinelli and his vision of farming at the service of humanity and the environment, supported by science, we can see a path towards a positive future.

It is giants like Paolinelli, often very humble people, who write important pages in history and improve the lives of millions. This year Paulinelli is one of the candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize: we hope that he receives the award, not just for his personal achievements, but as a symbol of the possibility of a future that is still achievable.

To know more watch this video