The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria, has won the 2018 Africa Food Prize award worth $100,000.
The independent Africa Food Prize Committee, chaired by H.E. 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.
“IITA stood out to us for its steadfast and inspiring commitment to a research agenda that aligns with both our African traditions as well as the evolving needs of African farmers and consumers for the latest advances food production,” said Obasanjo.
In recent years, that work also has included a critical focus on connecting crop science to creating employment for Africa’s youth, and ensuring African farmers can adapt to the stresses of climate change and the growing threat for an array of crop pests and plant diseases.
“From the cassava we’re still eating today, to the valuable and nutritious soybeans we now grow in our fields, to maize varieties that can withstand drought and deadly toxins—our diets and our agriculture businesses would be much poorer today without IITA’s leadership, and its willingness to forge powerful bonds with African farmers and African communities.”
Speaking as he received the Prize on behalf of his institution, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s Director General, stated his belief that a great deal of IITA’s success rests on its ability to develop relationships and collaborations that allow the fruits of its research to be scaled up and made available to millions of farmers.
“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,” said Sanginga.
“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.”
Developing world-class research for Africa’s farmers since its founding in 1967, IITA has developed a track record as a protector and promoter of Africa’s most important food crops.
IITA scientists have developed hundreds of new, improved and high-yielding varieties of major African dietary staple crops. They include almost 400 new varieties of cassava, a plant once considered a poor man’s crop that, under IITA’s breeding efforts, has become one of Africa’s most lucrative and diverse farm commodities, with uses ranging from bread flour to beer to industrial processes.
IITA has also led efforts to breed new varieties of banana, cowpea, maize, soybean and yam that are suited to the region’s wide diversity of growing conditions and dietary preferences.
Overall, for Africans, the value of the crops developed by IITA and its partners now stands at US $ 17 billion and counting, underscoring its contribution to not only Africa’s agriculture but its economy as well.