A PIONEER FOR ALL PEOPLE
Although he is one of China's most famous scientists, Yuan Longping considers himself a farmer, for he works the land to do his research. Indeed, his sunburnt face and arms and his slim, strong body are just like those of millions of Chinese farmers, for whom he has struggled for the past five decades. Dr Yuan Longping grows what is called super hybrid rice. In 1974, he became the first agricultural pioneer in the world to grow rice that has a high output. This special strain of rice makes it possible to produce one-third more of the crop in the same fields. Now more than 60% of the rice produced in China each year is from this hybrid strain.
Born into a poor farmer's family in 1930, Dr Yuan graduated from Southwest Agricultural College in 1953. Since then, finding ways to grow more rice has been his life goal. As a young man, he saw the great need for increasing the rice output. At that time, hunger was a disturbing problem in many parts of the countryside. Dr Yuan searched for a way to increase rice harvests without expanding the area of the fields. In 1950, Chinese farmers could produce only fifty million tons of rice. In a recent harvest, however, nearly two hundred million tons of rice was produced. These increased harvests mean that 22% of the world's people are fed from just 7% of the farmland in China. Dr Yuan is now circulating his knowledge in India, Vietnam and many other less developed countries to increase their rice harvests. Thanks to his research, the UN has more tools in the battle to rid the world of hunger. Using his hybrid rice, farmers are producing harvests twice as large as before.
Dr Yuan is quite satisfied with his life. However, he doesn't care about being famous. He feels it gives him less freedom to do his research. He would much rather keep time for his hobbles. He enjoys listening to violin music, playing mah-jong, swimming and reading. Spending money on himself or leading a comfortable life also means very little to him. Indeed, he believes that a person with too much money has more rather than fewer troubles. He therefore gives millions of yuan to equip others for their research in agriculture.
Just dreaming for things, however, costs nothing. Long ago Dr yuan had a dream about rice plants as tall as sorghum. Each ear of rice was as big as an ear of corn and each grain of rice was as huge as a peanut. Dr Yuan awoke from his dream with the hope of producing a kind of rice that could feed more people. Now, many years later, Dr Yuan has another dream: to export his rice so that it can be grown around the globe. One dream is not always enough, especially for a person who loves and cares for his people.