Olam International, in partnership with Agropolis Fondation, has set aside $75,000 grant to support development and implementation for a ground- breaking scientific research that can deliver transformational impacts within global agriculture.
Unlike other research awards, the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security requires clear evidence of potential short-term impact on food availability, affordability, adequacy, and accessibility. The fourth edition of the biennial Prize followed the recent warning from the UN World Food Programme that the COVID-19 pandemic would double the number of people suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020, bringing food security firmly into the world’s spotlight.
Co-Founder and Group CEO at Olam, Sunny Verghese, said: “At a time when the world faces a potential rise in food insecurity from the coronavirus crisis, with vulnerable parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa, most at risk, the new scientific insights and techniques being developed by research teams around the world are more significant than ever.
“The Olam Prize aims to support breakthrough innovations so that together we can re- imagine agriculture for greater food security.”
The winner of the previous Prize was a pioneering mapping approach that is reimagining subsistence farming in Ethiopia, co-ordinated by Dr. Tomaso Ceccarelli of Wageningen Environmental Research and Dr Elias Eyasu Fantahun of Addis Ababa University.
Innovation Mapping for Food Security (IM4FS), is supporting Ethiopia’s REALISE programme to give smallholder farmers a ‘best fit’ for what to grow, where and how, with the goal of improving productivity in food insecure areas.
Commenting on what the funding has meant to the implementation of their research, Ceccarelli said: “The funding from the Olam Prize has allowed us to start scaling up our approach and shift our focus from areas of high potential agriculture, to the food insecure and drought prone regions of Ethiopia. Specifically, the funding is being applied to four key areas: engaging local and regional planners, in-situ data collection on bio-physical and socio-economic conditions, developing the GIS-based tool behind IM4FS, and application of site-specific crop recommendations based on the research fed into and information generated by the tool.
“With the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19, we’re also reviewing with our partners how IM4FS can support more immediate and urgent food security needs for farmers amid the pandemic. This would include planning efficient seed, fertiliser and other input distribution to farmers based on needs assessments.”
Meanwhile, since receipt of the 2017 Prize funding, the heat-tolerant wheat varieties developed by Dr. Filippo Bassi of ICARDA, are now well-established in Senegal and Mauritania and have been successfully cultivated for the first time by farmers in Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and the Republic of the Gambia.
“Despite extreme weather events Africa, and the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa, I am happy to say that the activities enabled by the Olam Prize are advancing at full steam.
“Indeed, the Olam Prize, and the communication campaign that followed, has truly helped promote the use of this technology and get farmers interested. Since the initial press release, ICARDA has been contacted almost weekly to provide seeds to different farmers and scientific organisations around the globe. The true power of the Olam Prize goes well beyond personal recognition to really helping people learn and deploy new progressive ideas for sustainable agriculture.”