Olam awards prize for innovation in food security

The Olam International Prize for Innovation in Food Secu-rity has been awarded to Professor Norman Uphoff, a former Director of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture, and Development and the SRI International Network and Resources Centre (SRI-Rice).

The Olam International Prize for Innovation in Food Security is one of four unique global initiatives launched to mark Olam’s 25th anniversary, all of which are aimed at helping address some of the global challenges facing the next generation.

The other three initiatives are: The Olam Scholarship Programme, the Building Sustainable Futures Forum and the Olam Foundation.

Olam is a leading trader in Ghana’s cocoa beans into European and Asian markets and has, in its 18 years track record in the country, earned meritorious recognition from the Ghana Export Promotion Council for her contribution towards the expansion of the non-traditional export sector.

A prize of US$50,000 was awarded to Prof. Norman Uphoff and the CSRI by an international jury panel at the third Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture in Montpellier, France.

Launched in partnership with the leading scientific organisation, Agropolis Foundation, the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security recognises an outstanding innovation for its impact on the availability, affordability, accessibility or adequacy of food.

The winning entry, SRI-Rice, housed at New York’s Cornell University, has been promoting research and facilitating knowledge-sharing on the climate-smart methodology of SRI with outstanding results.

The SRI system requires 80-90 per cent fewer rice seeds, up to 50 per cent less water and, in many instances, no fertiliser.  Rice yields are boosted by 20-50 per cent (and often by much more), with farmers’ costs subsequently reduced by 10-20 per cent.

Given that rice is produced by over 200 million smallholder farmers in emerging markets, such increases are bound to have a significant impact on food security.

Such has been the success of the SRI system today that it is now being promoted by governments in China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam, where two thirds of the world’s rice is produced.

The use of SRI practices is increasing the yields of over 10 million smallholder farmers by an average of 1.67 tons per hectare, while simultaneously reducing their costs and lowering water requirements.

“The innovation behind SRI is fascinating because it disrupts common notions of rice farming, and such disruption is essential if we are to feed nine billion people by 2050. Grown by 200 million small-scale farmers, rice is the world’s staple diet, so I am delighted that Olam is helping to scale up practices so clearly proven to increase yields, thereby reducing the pressure on precious arable land and water,” Mr. Sunny Verghese, Group Managing Director and CEO at Olam said in a statement.

Mr. Verghese observed that in addition to the efficacy of SRI, there were no costs to the farmer which provides three benefits.

“Firstly, communities have increased access to vital calories without paying more; secondly they can improve their livelihoods by selling surplus production and lastly, such surplus helps to meet global food security needs,” he said.

By Times Reporter

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