Olam launches 4th edition of ‘Olam Prize for innovation’ seeking to address food insecurity

GLOBAL – Global food and agri-business Olam International, in partnership with Agropolis Fondation, is on the hunt for ground-breaking scientific research that can deliver transformational impacts within global agriculture and offer a USD$75,000 grant to support development and implementation of the research.

Agropolis Foundation is a foundation for scientific cooperation which aims to promote and support high-level research and higher education (training-through-research) as well as to broaden international research partnerships in agricultural sciences and sustainable development research.

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Unlike other research awards, the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security requires clear evidence of potential short-term impact on food availability, affordability, adequacy, and accessibility.

The fourth edition of the biennial Prize follows the recent warning from the UN World Food Programme that the COVID-19 pandemic will double the number of people suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020, bringing food security firmly into the world’s spotlight.

The Co-Founder and Group CEO at Olam, Sunny Verghese, said that at a time when the world was facing a potential rise in food insecurity from the coronavirus crisis, with vulnerable parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa most at risk, new scientific insights and techniques around the world were more significant than ever.

“The Olam Prize aims to support breakthrough innovations so that together we can re-imagine agriculture for greater food security,” he said.

In a statement Olam said the winner of the previous prize developed a pioneering mapping approach that was re-imagining subsistence farming in Ethiopia.

It added that the research was coordinated by Dr Tomaso Ceccarelli of Wageningen Environmental Research and Dr Elias Eyasu Fantahun of Addis Ababa University.

Commenting the utilisation of the fund, 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.”

According to him, the funding is being applied to four key areas: engaging local and regional planners, in-situ data collection on bio-physical and socioeconomic 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, he said the team was reviewing with partners how IM4FS could 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,” he said.

Meanwhile, the statement said since the receipt of the 2017 Prize funding, the heat-tolerant wheat varieties developed by Dr Filippo Bassi of International Center for Agricultural Research (ICARDA) in the Dry Areas are now well-established in Senegal and Mauritania.

It added that they had been successfully cultivated for the first time by farmers in Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and the Republic of the Gambia.

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Dr Filippo Bassi stated that, “Despite extreme weather events 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.”

He highlighted that 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), enabling them to reach many more farmers.

Applications to the Olam prize are welcomed from academic or research institutions, civil societies and the private sector, focusing on any region, environment, crop or part of the agricultural supply chain with the deadline for submission set for 11th January 2021.

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