Olam Offers $75,000 for Scientific Research on Food Security

Olam Nigeria

By Adedapo Adesanya

Olam International has partnered Agropolis Foundation for this year’s Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security, with the winner getting a $75,000 grant to support development and implementation of agriculture that will help tackle an impending global food crisis.

The partnership aims to get ground-breaking scientific research that can deliver transformational impact within global agriculture.

The 4th edition of the biennial Prize follows the recent warning from the United Nations World Food Programme that the COVID-19 pandemic will double the number of people suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020.

Speaking on this, Mr Sunny Verghese, co-founder and Group CEO at Olam said: “At a time when the world faces a potential rise in food insecurity from the coronavirus crisis, with vulnerable parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa, most at risk, the new scientific insights and techniques being developed by research teams around the world are more significant than ever. The Olam Prize aims to support breakthrough innovations so that together we can re-imagine agriculture for greater food security.”

The winner of the previous prize was a pioneering mapping approach that is reimagining subsistence farming in Ethiopia, coordinated by Mr Tomaso Ceccarelli of Wageningen Environmental Research and Mr Elias Eyasu Fantahun of Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.

Commenting on what the funding has meant to the implementation of their research, Dr Ceccarelli said: “The funding from the Olam Prize has allowed us to start scaling up our approach and shift our focus from areas of high potential agriculture to the food insecure and drought-prone regions of Ethiopia.

“Specifically, the funding is being applied to 4 key areas: engaging local and regional planners, in-situ data collection on biophysical and socio-economic conditions, developing the GIS-based tool behind IM4FS, and application of site-specific crop recommendations based on the research fed into and information generated by the tool.

“With the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19, we’re also reviewing with our partners how IM4FS can support more immediate and urgent food security needs for farmers amid the pandemic. This would include planning efficient seed, fertiliser and other input distribution to farmers based on needs assessments.”

Also, the recipient of the 2017 Prize funding for the development of the heat-tolerant wheat varieties, Mr Filippo Bassi of ICARDA, said they are now well-established in Senegal and Mauritania and have been successfully cultivated for the first time by farmers in Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and the Republic of the Gambia.

“Despite extreme weather events in Africa, and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, I am happy to say that the activities enabled by the Olam Prize are advancing at full steam.

“Olam’s mill is Dakar is leading a partnership with other local millers to provide an ideal market for farmers to sell their new grain and with the expansion of heat-tolerant wheat now included as a strategic approach in the Adaptation of African Agriculture (a joint initiative by African Ministries of Agriculture), we can reach many more farmers.

“Indeed, the Olam Prize, and the communication campaign that followed, has truly helped promote the use of this technology and get farmers interested.

“Since the initial press release, ICARDA has been contacted almost weekly to provide seeds to different farmers and scientific organisations around the globe.

“The true power of the Olam Prize goes well beyond personal recognition to really help people learn and deploy new progressive ideas for sustainable agriculture,” he added.

Applications are welcomed from academic or research institutions, civil societies and the private sector, and can focus on any region, environment, crop or part of the agricultural supply chain.

Submissions must be made via the Agropolis website. The deadline for application submissions is January 11, 2021. Applications received before 30 November 2020 will be considered for publicity opportunities on Olam’s corporate channels.

The 2021 Prize will be judged by an independent jury of experts and awarded in conjunction with the Agropolis Louis Malassis International Scientific Prizes for Agriculture and Food and SHIFT Prize by Biovision Foundation.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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