Professor Ruth Khasaya Oniang’o, chair of the Sasakawa Africa Association and the Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE), has won the 2017 Africa Food Prize for her role as a leading voice on nutrition in Africa. The prize recognizes those who use agriculture to transform lives and stimulate economic development, and was chosen this year from among 600 nominees. Oniang’o shares the 2017 prize with Malian agriculture entrepreneur, Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly.
SAFE was launched 26 years ago when Winrock teamed up with the Sasakawa Africa Association (founded by Nobel Laureate and former Winrock Board Member Norman Borlaug, Japanese philanthropist Ryoichi Sasakawa and former President Jimmy Carter), to lead an innovative agriculture education pilot in Ghana that brought together agriculture schools, farmer organizations, ministries of higher learning and the private sector. Since then, SAFE has spread to nine countries and has graduated 4,000 mid-career extension agents.
“I am humbled to receive this prize and believe it highlights the work we have done and, more importantly, it will contribute toward shaping our continent’s food future,” Oniang’o said. “With the Sasakawa Africa Association, our focus is on not just increasing food production, but increasing the capacity of smallholder farmers to add value through agro-processing, reduce losses with improved postharvest techniques, and increase access to markets to encourage farming as a sustainable business. This holistic approach to agriculture, with an emphasis on nutrition, will stand Africa’s smallholder farmers in good stead for generations to come.”
A former Member of Parliament in Kenya, Professor Ruth Oniang’o is also an academic, scientist and nutritionist. She spearheaded the completion of Kenya’s food and nutrition policy, helped establish nutrition departments in Africa, and has given a voice to these issues internationally. She also founded the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development to highlight African issues to a wider audience.
“On behalf of Winrock International, I congratulate you on this honor,” said Winrock President and CEO Rodney Ferguson. “Your contributions to the field of agriculture and nutrition in Africa are widely recognized and it is a privilege to collaborate with you through the Sasakawa Africa Association and the Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education. Increasing the capacity of smallholder farmers in areas like improved processing and value addition are key to the food security of the African continent and the world. We look forward to our continued partnership in these areas, and extend our heartfelt congratulations.”
The prize was awarded in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, at the African Green Revolution Forum.