Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren (born 1947 in Switzerland) is an internationally renowned entomologist, agriculturalist, and development expert. In the 1980s he almost single-handedly developed a non-chemical biological control for the mealybug insect, which at the time was threatening cassava production across Africa. In doing so, he averted disastrous famine and saved upward of 20 million lives. For this achievement, he was named the 1995 World Food Prize.
Dr. Herren proposed that, instead of using expensive chemicals that could harm African ecosystems and contaminate its food supplies, governments and farmers could find a natural predator to the mealybug. Similar projects had succeeded elsewhere for over a century, but nobody had tried on the scale Dr. Herren was proposing, a swath reaching from Senegal to Angola in the west and across the continent to Madagascar. It would require enormous amounts of time, money, and effort; Dr. Herren was the sole member of the biological control program at IITA.
Results followed quickly: within five months of the project’s initiation, one wasp population had spread over 120 miles. By 1993, mealybug numbers had stabilized to controllable levels in 30 countries, and its relationship with E. lopezi had reached ecological equilibrium as well. Africa’s cassava reserves – the only hope for feeding the continent’s people in famine situations – were saved.
In the process, Dr. Herren built the biological control program at IITA into a major IITA-research station staffed by over 20 scientists, who in turn assist hundreds of researchers, educators, technicians, and farmers in biological control programs worldwide. Dr. Herren himself trained over 850 experts from 30 countries in biological and integrated control techniques.
With the cash award of the World Food Prize, Dr. Herren in 1998 established BioVision, a private foundation that funds and promotes science-led sustainable development projects in sub-Saharan Africa, and continues to serve as the foundation’s chairman. Additionally, he is co-chair of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology and president of the International Association of the Plant Protection Sciences. He remains a leading proponent for the development of biological controls and other ecologically sound management methods throughout Africa and the tropics. His interests and present activities cover areas from sustainable development – including plant, animal, and human health, conservation, and poverty – to the development and dissemination of system dynamic simulation models in support of informed policy formulation.
Dr. Herren received the 2002 Brandenberger Award for his dedication to improving the welfare of mankind, and the 2003 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.