RTB partners, CIP and IITA, awarded prize for efforts in improving food and nutrition security

Two partner centers of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), the International Potato Center (CIP) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have been jointly awarded the 2016 Al-Sumait Food Security Prize for their contributions toward reducing poverty and improving food and nutrition security through crops including roots, tubers and bananas.

The announcement came last week at a Kuwait City gathering of the Al-Sumait’s Board of Trustees, and will be officially conferred by the Amir of the State of Kuwait and the President of Equatorial Guinea during a ceremony at the Fourth Arab African Summit in Equatorial Guinea on 22 November.

CIP was recognized for its work in bringing the nutritional benefits of vitamin A rich orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) to an estimated two million households across sub-Saharan Africa. CIP’s Sweetpotato for Nutrition Team was noted for their work to fast track the breeding of OFSP in Africa, resulting “in release of over 50 nutritious varieties along with increased technical capacity of national research staff in several countries and developing varieties with increased productivity and resistance to sweetpotato virus disease,” according to the Al-Sumait Prize announcement.

OFSP is rich in vitamin A and a source of income for farming families. Photo S.Quinn/CIP

OFSP is rich in vitamin A and a source of income for farming families. Photo S.Quinn/CIP

“Our partners and donors share this recognition with us since it is through their consistent support and focus on delivering at scale that we have been able to have a significant impact on eliminating childhood blindness, reducing hidden hunger and contributing to the reduction in chronic malnourishment and stunting in Africa,” CIP Director General Dr. Barbara Wells is quoted as saying in a press release from the organization.

IITA was specifically recognized by the Al-Sumait Board of Trustees for its work in improving the yields and nutritional quality of major staple food crops, such as cassava, banana, and maize.

The prize highlights IITA’s work on key areas that have contributed to food security for millions of Africans, including breeding for improved cassava, plantain and banana varieties; Striga resistant maize and drought-tolerant maize; Vitamin A maize with the first released orange maize varieties coming from IITA; soybean varietal enhancement and deployment across Africa; cowpea germplasm/varieties from IITA’s genebank cowpea to income increase in northern Nigeria; and 10 years of systems research in a project called Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa.

A typical banana and plantain market at Ikire in Osun State, Nigeria. Banana and plantain are staple foods for food security. Photo by Adebayo/IITA.

A typical banana and plantain market at Ikire in Osun State, Nigeria. Banana and plantain are staple foods for food security. Photo Adebayo/IITA.

“We are proud of this award and we thank the Al-Sumait Prize for recognizing the efforts of IITA and our partners in helping African farmers and communities improve their livelihoods and enhance food and nutrition security through research and development on major food staples,” said IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga, in IITA’s announcement on their website.

The award highlights the critical role that root, tuber and banana crops play in improving incomes and food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa.