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Kenya’s Ruth Oniang’o, chair of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE), has been awarded the 2017 Africa Food Prize, in recognition of her role as a leading voice on nutrition in Africa.
Aimed at combating hunger and reducing poverty in Africa, the Africa Food Prize is the continent’s most prestigious prize in agricultural development in terms of numbers and scope, honouring outstanding contributions across every aspect of agriculture and food production.
Oniang’o received the 2017 Africa Food Prize alongside Mali’s Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly, the duo beat over 600 nominees to clinch the coveted prize, which was awarded to them on the third day of the seventh African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), held at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, September 4 – 8.
Oniang’o, a former Kenyan MP, is the first female nutrition professor in sub-Saharan Africa cum Kenya’s first nutrition professor and a “champion for investment in nutrition and policy development,” while Maïmouna Coulibaly, an agripreneur, is a champion of opening up “access to affordable quality seed to farmers and improving the nutrition of the food on people’s plates.”
“It is not by coincidence that Africa food situation has improved year after year. These two winners have greatly contributed to the transformation of the lives of small farmers and pushing for change that has led to great progress in continent-wide nutrition levels,” said Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian president and chair of the Africa Food Prize Committee.
“I am humbled to receive this Prize and believe it highlights the work we have done and more importantly, it will contribute towards shaping our continent’s food future. 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 increasing access to markets to encourage farming as a sustainable business,” says Oniang’o.
Speaking after the award ceremony, Yoshimasa Kanayama, president of the Sasakawa Africa Association said he was “delighted that Ruth’s tireless work on nutrition in agriculture has been recognised by such a prestigious organisation. Her contribution to our mission of empowering smallholder farmers across Africa is invaluable, and I know I speak on behalf of everyone at SAA when I say that her award is well deserved.”
Oniang’o, a recipient of the 2014 International Food and Management Association (IFAMA) Lifetime Award, spearheaded the completion of Kenya’s food and nutrition policy as well as the establishment of nutrition departments across African countries.
A fellow of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, the International Union of Food Science and Technology and the World Academy of Science and Art, Oniang’o is also the founder of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) and Rural Outreach Africa (ROA), a non-profit working to improve the livelihoods of rural people in Africa.