Drs. Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low and Howarth Bouis were on Tuesday 28th June announced as the 2016, World Food Prize Laureates during a ceremony at the U.S. State Department. Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga and Jan Low are part of the International Potato Center (CIP) while Howarth Bouis is the founder of HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The combined efforts of the four Laureates has seen over 10 million persons positively impacted by biofortified crops, with a potential of several hundred million more in the coming decades.
2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the World Food Prize by the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and is the most prominent global award for individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security. In the last 30 years, the World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity and availability of food throughout the world.
Dr. Maria Andrade, born in 1958 in Sao Filipe Fogo, Cape Verde Islands received her B.Sc. in 1984 and M.Sc. in Plant Genetics in 1985 from the University of Arizona. With support from USAID, she earned her Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Physiology from North Carolina State University in 1994. She developed a deep interest in biofortified crops after working on root crops in 1985 and conducting her Ph.D research on the sweetpotato, which, she learned, had the potential of providing significant nutritional benefits to malnourished children and women. Her Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) breeding research began in 1997 in drought-prone areas of Sub-Saharan Africa with intensive adaptive trials that led to the release of nine drought-tolerant varieties distributed to farmers in Mozambique in 2001. Dr. Andrade developed the “value-chain” approach which incorporated both socio-market and agro-processing strategies to ensure a sustainable program for the long term to address food insecurity, malnutrition, and income generation.
Dr. Robert Mwanga, born in 1954 in Budhabangula village in Uganda began his graduate training at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos, earning an M.Sc. in 1986. He was able to obtain his Plant Breeding and Genetics Ph.D. at North Carolina State University (1996- 2001) with a grant from the McKnight Foundation. His graduate research focused on, among other things, breeding for increased beta-carotene in sweetpotato plants. This set him on a career path of developing biofortified OFSP and he became the driving force behind making sweetpotato research a priority in Uganda. This resulted in the white sweetpotato with low or no Vitamin A content largely being replaced by Vitamin A-rich, high-yielding, pest and disease resistant OFSP in the diets of the rural poor in Uganda and throughout east and central Africa. With support from USAID, he established and implemented the Roots and Tuber Crops Program at the Namulonge research facility in Uganda from 1986 to 1990 where sweetpotato breeders and technicians from 10 Sub-Saharan African countries came for training to improve their breeding skills. Dr. Mwanga combined higher yield traits with virus tolerance and blight resistance in OFSP, which convinced more farmers to adopt the crop. In 2008, he became the CIP’s lead OFSP breeder for East Africa. By 2014, more than 30 percent of the farmers in Uganda were growing the OFSP varieties that he developed.
Born in 1955 in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Jan Low attended Pomona College in Claremont, California. She then entered Cornell College in Ithaca, NY, and was inspired by the chairperson of her doctoral committee to “undertake research that will make a difference in the world.” This professor introduced her to the interdisciplinary work on combating Vitamin A deficiency that the NGO Helen Keller International was doing and she decided to pursue a minor in nutrition. Dr. Low became interested in the importance of nutritional status as an indicator of well-being and of the major nutritional problems facing developing countries, including micronutrient deficiencies. After receiving her Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Cornell University in 1994, she joined the International Potato Center. In 2006, Dr. Low focused research investment on “breeding in Africa for Africa” that was centered in a new science-based program in Mozambique with her team member Andrade to select OFSP varieties that had greater drought tolerance and the more favored dry-fleshed consistency. In 2009, Dr. Low developed a ten-year project called “Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI) with the goal to favorably position sweetpotatoes in the food economies of seventeen African countries, particularly in expanding urban markets, to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes. In 2010, she became the leader of the SPHI and also project manager of its foundation project, the Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa, or SASHA, project, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr. Howarth (“Howdy”) Bouis was born in 1950 in Berkeley, California. He went to Stanford University as an economics major from 1968-72. He returned to Stanford and enrolled in a graduate program at the Food Research Institute. He earned his Ph.D. in 1982. Bouis began his work in the mid-1980s at the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C. where his early research showed that by increasing nutrients in staple crops accessible to low-income families, malnutrition and under-nutrition could be significantly reduced and general health, productivity, and livelihoods could be greatly improved. He created the organization HarvestPlus, within IFPRI in 2003, as a global multi-sector, multidisciplinary effort to improve nutrition and public health through crop biofortification. Under his leadership and with his highly motivated and effective persuasion, a large coalition of plant breeders, agronomists, nutritionists, and economists have worked together to form one of the most successful initiatives to improve nutrition through changes in the food system that the world has seen since the Green Revolution.
The four distinguished 30th Anniversary World Food Prize Laureates will receive the ground-breaking World Food Prize at a ceremony that will be held in the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, Iowa, on the evening of October 13, 2016. The event is the centerpiece of a three-day international symposium entitled the Borlaug Dialogue, which regularly draws over 1,200 people from 60 countries to discuss cutting-edge issues in global food security.
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