Ugandan Wins World Food Prize for Combating Malnutrition

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In short
The World Food Prize is the most prominent global award for individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security. This years 250,000 US Dollars prize will be divided equally between the four recipients.

Ugandan scientist Robert Mwanga is named among the four winners of the 2016 World Food Prize, one of the most coveted international awards given in agriculture. Mwanga joins Jan Low, Maria Andrade and Howarth Bouis, as the 2016 World Food Prize laureates.

The World Food Prize is the most prominent global award for individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security. The prize rewards work in countering world hunger and malnutrition through bio-fortification, the process of breeding critical vitamins and micro-nutrients into staple crops.

The prize was established 30 years ago by Norman Bourlag, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the Green Revolution.

Dr Andrade and Mwanga, plant scientists in Mozambique and Uganda respectively, are being honored for their work developing the orange-fleshed sweet potato, the single most successful example of bio-fortification. They bred the Vitamin A-enriched orange-fleshed sweet potato using genetic material from International Potato Center and other sources.

Robert Mwanga was the driving force behind making sweet potato research a priority in Uganda starting in the mid-1980s, resulting in the white sweet potato (with low or no Vitamin A content) largely being replaced by Vitamin A-rich orange fleshed sweet potato in the diets of the rural poor.

From 1986 to 1990, he established and implemented the Roots and Tuber Crops Program at Namulonge Agricultural Research Institute. Eventually, sweet potato breeders and technicians from 10 Sub-Saharan African countries came to his program for training to improve their breeding skills. His efforts in expanding and strengthening the work at the Namulonge facility made it the sweet potato breeding model for other countries in the region.

Dr Jan Low, the other recipient of the much coveted prize, structured the nutrition studies and programs that convinced almost two million households in 10 separate African countries to plant, purchase and consume this nutritionally fortified food.

Dr Howarth Bouis, the founder of HarvestPlus at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), over a 25-year period pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to Bio-fortification as a global plant breeding strategy.

As a result of his leadership, crops such as iron and zinc fortified beans, rice, wheat and pearl millet, along with Vitamin A-enriched cassava, maize and orange fleshed sweet potato are being tested or released in over 40 countries.

"These four extraordinary World Food Prize Laureates have proven that science matters, and that when matched with dedication, it can change people's lives," USAID Administrator Gayle Smith said.

In announcing the names of the 2016 Laureates, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize, noted "they are truly worthy to be named as the recipients of the award that Dr. Norman E. Borlaug created to be seen as the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture."

"The impact of the work of all four winners will be felt around the globe, but particularly in sub Saharan Africa," Quinn added. "It is particularly poignant that among our 2016 recipients are two African scientists who are working on solutions to tackle malnutrition in Africa, for Africa."

Thanks to the combined efforts of our four Laureates, over 10 million persons are now positively impacted by bio-fortified crops, with a potential of several hundred million more in the coming decades, Quinn added.

This year's 250,000 (over 845 million Shillings) US Dollars  prize will be divided equally between the four recipients who will officially receive the World Food Prize at a ceremony in October.
 

 

About the author

Sylvia Nankya
Sylvia is an Editor and Media Trainer with Uganda Radio Network. She has been a URN staff member since 2013. Sylvia has previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Radio One (2001-2009) and with Vision Group (2009-2011). Six of her active years in Journalism were spent covering the Parliament of Uganda.

Over the past few years, Sylvia has worked to promote the positive development of societies recovering from conflict through training journalists on choices of stories, how they report issues and use of appropriate language in covering conflict and post-conflict situations.

She is an Alumni of RNTC- Holland, Les Aspin Centre for Government at Marquette University-WI, USA and a Community Solutions Fellow.