Honorable Professor Ruth Oniang’o, is joint winner of the 2017 Africa Food Prize. Prof. Oniang’o, former Member of Parliament for Kenya, and a leading advocate on nutrition in Africa, served as a member of the CIAT Board of Trustees from 2012-2015. She shares the award with agricultural entrepreneur Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly, from Mali.
The dynamic duo received the award at the opening ceremony of the 7th African Green Revolution Forum this week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for their outstanding contributions towards agriculture and food production towards a sustainable food future in Africa. Working at different ends of agricultural value chains, their work has addressed multiple challenges to improve food and nutrition security across the continent. They will share the USD$100,000 prize money.
“We at CIAT Africa are immensely proud of these two titans in agriculture,” said Dr. Debisi Araba, who attended the ceremony. “We salute your innovative spirit and contribution to the development of agriculture in Africa.”
“In particular, we’re delighted that Prof. Oniang’o, as a former member of the CIAT Board of Trustees, was able to share with CIAT her insights and dedication to ensure that the center’s research was firmly focused on tackling some of the most pressing challenges in African agriculture.”
Prof. Ruth Oniang’o, currently Editor-in-Chief and Founder at African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND), is recognized as a leading voice on nutrition. Her scientific research to advance agricultural productivity is matched with a deep understanding of the challenges rural farmers face, especially women, and she has worked with communities and policy makers to improve access to higher-yielding crops and markets.
“I believe we are what we eat,” said Prof. Oniang’o, on receiving her prize. “I realized early on in my life, when I dreamt of being a doctor, that food is the first medicine. I am humbled to receive this prize and believe it highlights the work we have done and more importantly, it will contribute towards shaping our continent’s food future. I am a strong believer that Africa shall, one day, feed the world,” she said.
Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly is founder and Chief Executive Officer of leading seed company Faso Kaba, an agri-business providing a wide range of improved seeds, including cereals, oil seeds and fodder, helping farmers increase their yields, incomes and livelihoods. She is a role model for entrepreneurs – especially among women – who work hard to build a business in agriculture and stay ahead of trends and challenges to profit while also benefiting others.
Coulibaly said that while the opportunities for agribusinesses in Africa are endless, entrepreneurs face multiple challenges, adding that her family and staff have been vital supports, helping her stay true to her vision when times were tough. She said she looks forward to a time when business women will no longer need to struggle so hard to succeed.
Dr. Ruben Echeverría, Director General of CIAT, said: “This is fantastic news, and the award thoroughly deserved. After working with Ruth for many years, I’ve seen how her vision, commitment and passion have helped strengthen and guide CIAT research in Africa.”
“Farmers need scientists to work hard and find better, more resilient, higher yielding varieties of crops, and scientists need the private sector to get new seeds to farmers,” he continued. “These laureates embody not only the entrepreneurial spirit of women across Africa; they demonstrate something we know to be true in agriculture: that to succeed we have to work together. My enormous congratulations to them both.”
The Africa Food Prize started as the Yara Prize in 2005, established by Yara International ASA to recognize achievements in agriculture on the continent and honor those who continue to contribute agricultural growth and support food security across Africa. It aims to encourage a dynamic farming sector, making farming more productive, profitable and resilient.
In 2016, the prize was renamed the Africa Food Prize, with Dr Kanayo Nwanze, former President of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), awarded the inaugural Africa Food Prize at the African Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.