World Food Prize Selects Gender-Focused Plant Breeder as the Recipient of the 2019 Norman Borlaug Award

On behalf of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas and the Gender and Breeding Initiative, we would like to congratulate Hale Ann Tufan for being the 2019 recipient of the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application.  Collaboration with Hale first began with the NextGen Cassava project and evolved to work on quality traits and gender as a founding member of the Gender and Breeding Initiative and the RTBFoods project.

Hale’s efforts to advance gender in agricultural research contribute to equitable engagement and benefits for both men and women in different spheres of engagement, from the farm to the lab and beyond.

The award is well deserved, and we look forward to our continued collaboration with Hale in advancing gender in breeding and in other areas of agricultural research.

Graham Thiele, Director and

Vivian Polar, Gender and M & E Specialist,

CGIAR Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas

Dr. Tufan working in the field

The World Food Prize Foundation announced that Dr. Hale Ann Tufan, of Turkey, is the 2019 Recipient of the Norman E. Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation. She is recognized for championing the incorporation of gender-supportive activities within the global agricultural research community, working across disciplines to ensure women farmers and scientists are fairly represented in the lab, in the field and at the table.

“Since being established in 2012 with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Food Prize Dr. Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application has grown to become the premier recognition in the world for young agricultural scientists under the age of 40,” said Amb. Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize. “The presentation of the award in 2019 to Dr. Hale Ann Tufan of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University both reflects her remarkable achievements in making plant breeding work for women farmers’ needs by changing the views of the global agriculture research community towards gender and further reinforces the significant global importance of the Borlaug Field Award itself.”

In the course of her education and early career working with plant breeders, Tufan realized that it was not enough to simply release improved crop varieties because so many of those varieties were not adopted by the farmers they were meant to target. She discovered that this was often because researchers were missing the importance of taking gender into account in plant breeding, and as a result were ignoring the needs of a large number of farmers.

In 2012, Tufan took her first step toward addressing this need when she joined Cornell University’s International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to manage the Next Generation Cassava Breeding (NextGen Cassava) project. Through NextGen Cassava, she worked across multiple partner institutions in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Brazil, Colombia, and the U.S. to design and implement a “Gender-Responsive Cassava Breeding” initiative to reach women smallholder farmers. This project is leading to better understanding of gender needs and impacts in farming communities by listening to stakeholders and is working with national agricultural research centers in Africa to mainstream and prioritize end-user preferences in breeding programs.

In 2015, Tufan secured a five-year, $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for her brainchild, Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT). Under Tufan’s leadership, GREAT brings together social and agricultural scientists to design and deliver courses in the practice of gender-responsive research to plant breeders in sub-Saharan Africa, which is leading to improved outcomes for women smallholder farmers, entrepreneurs and farmer organizations. As of today, researchers from 18 countries and 22 institutions have been trained in one of GREAT’s courses. Through GREAT, Tufan also helped to establish a Center of Excellence for gender and agricultural research at Makerere University in Uganda.

“To effectively confront global hunger all voices must be heard and valued, regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity and ability, as we join together as scientists, farmers and communities to grow life-giving food,” said Tufan. “Norman Borlaug believed in the power of human ingenuity to solve our greatest challenges, and his dedication reshaped the world. I am humbled to receive this award named in his honor and proud to work with collaborators from Cornell, Makerere University, IITA, NaCRRI Uganda and NRCRI Nigeria, amongst other researchers championing for gender equality. By continuing Norman Borlaug’s legacy, we can ensure that men, women, boys and girls all equally benefit in the fight to end hunger.”

In 2018, Tufan took on a new role in NextGen Cassava, heading up the Survey Division with the aim of identifying traits preferred by farmers to ensure that NextGen Cassava breeding is demand-driven and inclusive. Tufan also co-leads a team in the Breeding RTB Products for End User Preferences (RTBFoods) project, working across six African countries to create an evidence base for root, tuber, and banana product preferences by gender and other social factors that can be used by breeders to identify and prioritize traits in their breeding programs.

Tufan also demonstrates her commitment to advancing gender sensitivity through her work with the Steering Committee of CGIAR’s Gender & Breeding Initiative (GBI), organizing workshops and a symposium on future directions for gender and plant breeding for GBI members from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. She displays her leadership as director of Cornell’s Advancing Women in Agriculture through Research and Education (AWARE), initiating the first school-wide gender and diversity audit of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences. She shares her passion with the graduate students she mentors and advises, especially African women students.

Dr. Tufan is the eighth recipient of the award since its inception in 2011. She will receive the prize at a ceremony in the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates on October 16, 2019.

Learn more about Dr. Hale Ann Tufan on the World Food Prize Foundation website.