Robert Mwanga is one of four 2016 World Food Prize laureates. To counter the devastating effects of Vitamin A deficiency, which contribute to high rates of blindness, diarrhea, immune system disorders, and premature death in children and pregnant women in Africa, he, together with Maria Andrade and Jan Low undertook a multi-year effort to develop disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, high yielding varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) that can flourish in the variable soils and climatic conditions found in Sub-Sarahan Africa.
Robert was born in 1954 in a village called Budhabangula in Uganda. When he returned from his Master’s work at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos in 1986 he established the Roots and Tuber Crops Program at the Namulonge research facility. At the time, the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture (UMA) had deprioritized sweetpotato in favor of other crops, despite the fact that sweetpotato was a major part of the Ugandan diet.
He was the driving force behind making sweet potato research a priority in Uganda starting in the mid-1980s, which resulted in the white sweet potato (with low or no Vitamin A content) largely being replaced by Vitamin A-rich OFSP in the diets of the rural poor. His breeding research, mentoring of scientists, and capacity building resulted in the dissemination of new high-yielding, pest- and disease-resistant OFSP varieties in Uganda and throughout East and Central Africa.
In this short audio slideshow, Robert shares his personal motivation and what the World Food Prize means to his work.