Professor Ruth Oniang’o from Kenya and Ms. Maimouna Sidibe Coulibay from Mali are the joint winners of this year’s Africa Food Prize – a distinguished award recognizing individuals and institutions leading in the effort to transform the current wretched state of agriculture in Africa.
The $100,000 prize honors Africans who have embraced the progressive African agricultural agenda and highlights unique initiatives and technical inventions that can help the continent to address the perennial problems of food insecurity and economic deficiency.
The two winners were announced on Tuesday at a special event held in Sofitel Hotel, Abidjan, Ivory Coast. They were recognized for their outstanding efforts in making agriculture a sustainable business in Africa.
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“Ruth Oniang’o and Maimouna Coulibaly were awarded for their contribution in opening access to affordable quality seeds to farmers and improving the nutrition of the food on people’s plates,” the event organizers wrote on their website.
Professor Ruth Oniang’o
As a leading academic expert in food security and nutrition, Prof. Oniang’o has influenced various government policies and trained many young professionals in the agricultural sector.
She is the founder and editor of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) – a leading peer-reviewed magazine on agricultural development in Africa.
She is also the founder and executive director of Rural Outreach Program (ROP), a non-profit community development organization established to harness the intellectual resource of universities and enhance capacities within communities for improved livelihoods.
Aside from being the first woman nutrition professor in sub-Saharan Africa, Oniang’o has served as a Member of Parliament for Butere, Western Kenya from 2003 to 2007.
As an MP, Prof Oniang’o introduced a bill to address food insecurity in the country and supported a bill to professionalize nutritionists and dieticians.
She was also a big proponent of the exploration of modern agricultural technologies such as biotechnology by African researchers and policymakers. Oniang’o hopes to witness a green revolution for Africa before the end of her days on earth.
Ms. Maimouna Sidibe Coulibaly
Coulibaly is an expert in the agro-industrial sector with a keen interest in finding a sustainable solution to food shortage in Mali. In 2003, she founded a company called Faso Kaba Sarl, which manufactures and markets agricultural seeds across Mali.
Her seeds are of high quality, highly productive and guarantee high yields for farmers. Faso Kaba is now the largest seed company in Mali.
Coulibaly’s main objective is to reduce poverty and eradiate famine in the West African country by empowering subsistence farmers so that they can produce more.
To achieve this, Faso Kaba has positioned itself at the bottom of the agricultural value chain, by providing small farmers in the country with high-yielding seeds.
The two women represent the immense potential that African women have and the success they can accomplish in entrepreneurship despite the odds.