Professor Ruth Khasaya Oniang’o, chair of the Sasakawa Africa Association and the Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE), and Malian agriculture entrepreneur, Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly, whose work benefited from Winrock volunteer experts and a project that Winrock co-implemented, have won the 2017 Africa Food Prize. The prize recognizes those who use agriculture to transform lives and stimulate economic development, and the winners were chosen this year from among 600 nominees.
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.
Coulibaly set up her own company (Faso Kaba Sarl) that specializes in the production and marketing of agricultural seeds for the benefit of small farmers. She received support from USAID’s Mali Agriculture Value Chain Enhancement Network (MAVEN) program (implemented by ACDI/VOCA and Winrock International). Winrock sent two volunteer experts to provide training and technical assistance to Faso Kaba staff on improved seed production practices and the use and maintenance of new seed processing equipment, and to introduce hybrid seed production, which can result in a 25- to 40-percent increase in yields for maize and sorghum.
The prizes were awarded in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, at the African Green Revolution Forum.