Four scientists from a global agricultural research partnership to be awarded the “Nobel Prize of food” in October
Washington, D.C.—Howarth “Howdy” Bouis, Director of HarvestPlus, a joint venture by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), won the 2016 World Food Prize. Three scientists from the International Potato Center (CIP), Drs. Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, and Jan Low, have been announced as fellow winners.
“This prestigious award recognizes Howdy’s 25 years of pioneering work in expanding the impact of biofortification,” said IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan. “His work to reduce hidden hunger has improved the health of millions of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America—and that number could balloon to several hundred million in the coming decades.”
Biofortification is a process that breeds critical vitamins and micronutrients directly into staple crops to improve their nutritional quality. Bouis recognized early that what mattered was not just how many calories people get, but the nutritional value contained in their food. Today, more than 2 billion people—one in three of us—don’t get enough essential vitamins and minerals. Micronutrient deficiencies, or “hidden hunger,” are leading causes of easily-preventable deaths. Undernutrition contributes to almost half of deaths in children under 5. More than one in three children under 5 is stunted in most parts of Africa and South Asia.
“Dr. Bouis pioneered the implementation of a multi-institutional approach to biofortification as a global plant breeding strategy,” said Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation. “Through the combined efforts of our four Laureates, over 10 million persons are now positively impacted by biofortified crops.”
Bouis’ work has paved the way for biofortified crops, including iron- and zinc-fortified beans, rice, wheat, and pearl millet and vitamin A–fortified cassava, maize, and orange-fleshed sweet potato, which are now being tested or released in over 40 countries.
“It’s a tremendous honor to win the World Food Prize, and I am particularly excited to expand the work we’re doing at HarvestPlus,” said Bouis. “Biofortified crops are more disease resistant, have higher yields, and are leaps and bounds better nutritionally. And they’re making a visible impact on the lives of poorest population.”
Together with local farmers and researchers on the ground, HarvestPlus develops and promotes staple crops that are climate-smart, high-yield, and packed with micronutrients. HarvestPlus also works with policymakers to develop programs to promote the crops and with communities to take the crops from fields to forks.
Fellow recipients Dr. Andrade and Dr. Mwanga are plant scientists in Mozambique and Uganda. They bred the Vitamin A-enriched sweet potato. Dr. Low structured the nutrition studies and programs that convinced almost two million households in 10 African countries to plant, purchase, and consume this nutritionally fortified food.
Created in 1986 by Nobel laureate and “father of the Green Revolution” Norman Borlaug, the World Food Prize is the foremost global award recognizing individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security.
The award will be presented on October 13 at the state capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, as the centerpiece of the three-day 2016 Borlaug Dialogue. The four laureates will share a $250,000 prize. Previous winners of the award include former President of Ghana John Kufour; U.S. Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus; former IFPRI Director General Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen; Professor Yuan Longping of China; and former Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme Catherine Bertini.