Swati Nayak

Swati Nayak: Odisha Scientist and South Asia Regional Lead

Meet the first Odia and third Indian scientist Swati Nayak to receive this prestigious Norman Borlaug Field Award, 2023, for promoting rural innovation models! 

This is the story of Swati Nayak, the pride of Odisha, who is currently working in Manila as the South Asia Regional Lead for Seed System and Product Management at the CGIAR-International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). 

Her role focuses on making sure scientific advancements benefit farmers by promoting inclusive agricultural extension and technology transfer. This helps bridge the gap between science and practical benefits in farmers’ fields.

In 2021, through her efforts, women-led enterprises were able to produce, distribute, and sell approximately 8.5 metric tonnes of seeds to quality farmers, more than 40 percent of whom were women.

Swati Nayak grew up in Odisha’s Puri, and had no direct contact with farming in her younger days.

However, her interest in plant science led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University in Andhra Pradesh

During her master’s in rural management at the Institute of Rural Management in Gujarat, she began working with farming communities, sparking her interest in applied research.

This passion eventually led Swati Nayak to earn a Ph.D. in Agriculture Extension Management and Technology Transfer from Amity University, Noida.

Swati Nayak was appointed to head the first-ever dedicated Indian government initiative for women farmers. She joined IRRI in 2013 and spearheaded groundbreaking research initiatives, led multidisciplinary teams, and forged collaborations with local communities, academia, students and stakeholders. 

Swati Nayak was central to the massive effort toward the successful dissemination and adoption of more than 20 promising climate-resilient and biofortified rice varieties.

Her work stems from the observation that although many high-yielding varieties of seeds are being developed, not all farmers can access them, resulting in the stakeholders being deprived of the benefits of innovation. Nayak is trying to bridge this gap between scientific knowledge and its practical application by working closely with farmers.

One big success was eight years ago when she introduced the drought-resistant rice variety Sahbhagi  dhan in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj. This made a big difference in farming in areas that rely on rain, and farmers started including it in their practices and diets.

She is a pioneer in extension and field research, as well as an inspiration to the many people, especially women, following her lead.

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