Olam seeks new ideas to address food security

Olam International, in partnership with Agropolis Foundation, is seeking groundbreaking scientific research that can deliver transformational impacts on global agriculture.

Olam said the winner would be given $75,000 grant to support the development and implementation of research findings.

A statement on Thursday said the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security required clear evidence of potential short-term impact on food availability, affordability, adequacy, and accessibility.

It added that the fourth edition of the biennial prize followed the recent warning from the United Nations World Food Programme that the COVID-19 pandemic would double the number of people suffering from acute hunger by the end of 2020, bringing food security into the 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.

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 on what 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 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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