The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has been awarded the 2018 Africa Food Prize award for leadership and innovation in finding solutions to major concerns affecting Africa’s agriculture sector.
The award was given during the just concluded African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali. It consists of $100,000 cash prize and a trophy of recognition.
The now 50-year-old non-profit institution based in Ibadan, Nigeria, generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation.
Speaking as he received the Prize on behalf of his institution, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s Director General, stated:
“I’m extremely honored to be receiving this prize on behalf of IITA and proud to be part of a group of researchers dedicated to building lasting and relevant solutions for the continent.
But it would be remiss of me if I didn’t acknowledge the important role of our various partners, from other research centers to governments to the private sector, without whom our research might never have seen the light of day.”
For instance in Rwanda, cassava crops were about to decline four years ago because of a viral disease. Then, the Minister of Agriculture came to consult us for a solution. And, now, cassava crops are improving thanks to our disease resistant cassava varieties.”
An independent Africa Food Prize Committee, chaired by Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, selected IITA for its deep commitment over many decades to producing a steady stream of innovations that have boosted the nutrition and incomes of millions of people across Africa.
Svein Tore Holsether, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yara International, noted that since its inception in 2005, the Yara Prize – now the Africa Food Prize – has honored people and organizations who are strong voices in the African agriculture sector.
According to Svein Tore Holsether:
“To achieve real transformation we need to mobilize across sectors, and research organizations like IITA will play a crucial role, providing valuable science, vital in making sure we can produce enough food, which is also nutritious and environmentally friendly.”
IITA scientists have developed hundreds of new, improved and high-yielding varieties of major African staple food crops.
It helped usher in a new day for cassava production with the release of a cassava enriched to naturally produce vitamin A, a nutrient whose deficiency is a leading cause of preventable blindness in children and also can be fatal to pregnant women.
The new cassava varieties, which are high-yielding and pest-resistant, can provide 25% of the daily vitamin A requirement for both children and women.
The IITA is the first institution to receive the distinguished Africa Food Prize.