Two women, working at both ends of the agriculture supply chain in Africa, beat more than 600 other nominees to win the 2017 Africa Food Prize (AFP).
The two were awarded the $100,000 prize at the 2017 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast Wednesday, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Kenya’s Professor Ruth Oniang’o, an advocate of nutrition, and Ms Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly, an entrepreneur and agro industrialist from Mali, were awarded for their contribution in opening access to affordable quality seed to farmers and improving the nutrition of the food on people’s plates.
Former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, who chairs the Africa Food Prize Committee, said the duo had played a key role in the development of the African food and nutrition environment.
“It is not by coincidence that Africa food situation has improved year after year. These two winners have greatly contributed to the transformation of the lives of small farmers and pushing for change that has led to great progress in continentwide nutrition levels,” said Obasanjo.
Prof. Oniang’o, the first nutrition professor in Kenya and the first female nutrition professor in sub-Saharan Africa, was feted for her role in championing for investment in nutrition and policy development.
She also served as a member of Kenya’s ninth parliament from January 2003 to December 2007.
Prior to that, she had served as Professor of Food Science and Nutrition and founder Director of Graduate Studies at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
In 2001, she founded the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) as a platform for publishing scholarly works by African scholars and others with an interest in issues related to food, agriculture, nutrition and development.
She continues to edit the journal, in addition to her role as the first Executive Director of Rural Outreach Africa (ROA), a non-profit community development organization that she established in 1993 to improve the livelihoods of rural people.
Her commitment to the community has seen Prof. Oniang’o receive two national medals: the Silver Star (SS) medal in 1995 and the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) in 1998.
In 2000 ,American Biographical Institute named her the woman of the year and in 2006 she became a fellow of three institutions, the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, the International Union of Food Science and Technology and the World Academy of Science and Art.
“I feel honored to have the work we have done over so many years recognized and I hope that more people shall join us in the quest to have a food-secure continent,” said Oniang’o.
Coulibaly, the other Laureate, is a renowned agripreneur in West Africa, where she has invested heavily in seed production and distribution. Her company Faso Kaba produces and supplies improved and high-yielding seed, some of which have been confirmed to increase yields by up to 40 per cent.
Coulibaly thanked the awards board for recognizing her work, and urged more women to invest in agriculture.
“Agriculture is the main hope for Africa’s success and I would like to encourage everyone, and especially African women, not to shy off from investing in the sector. I must say that it is not an easy path, but its rewards are tremendous,” said Coulibaly.
AFP is the most prestigious prize in African agricultural development in terms of numbers and scope, honouring outstanding contributions across every aspect of agriculture and food production. The aim of the prize is to assist in combating hunger and reducing poverty in Africa.
The AFP began as the Yara Prize, established in 2005 by Yara International ASA in Norway to honour achievements in African agriculture. It was expanded and renamed as the Africa Food Prize in 2016.