Global Agriculture

World Food Prize Foundation Announces Recipient of the 2021 Norman Borlaug Award For Field Research and Application

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09 September 2021, Africa: From the virtual stage of the Africa Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi, World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson announced today that Dr. Elliott Dossou-Yovo is the 2021 Recipient of the Norman E. Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, Endowed by The Rockefeller Foundation. 

Dossou-Yovo is recognized for spearheading innovative water management systems for resilient rice production in the face of climate change. His groundbreaking research and close collaboration with smallholder farmers has empowered thousands of rice farmers throughout West Africa to use climate-smart cultivation techniques to earn greater incomes, achieve food and nutrition security, and enhance agroecosystems. Dossou-Yovo is Associate Principal Scientist and Agriculture and Climate Change Specialist at Africa Rice Center in Côte d’Ivoire.

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“I am truly honored to be selected as the tenth recipient of the Borlaug Field Award, named after the great agricultural scientist and World Food Prize founder, Norman Borlaug,” said Dossou-Yovo. “I was inspired by his credo, ‘take it to the farmer.’ Agriculture is the wisest investment we can make since it will ultimately contribute the most to real wealth, morality and satisfaction. Now more than ever, our collective actions are required.”

Prior to Dossou-Yovo joining AfricaRice in April of 2016, he received a BSc and MSc in Natural Resources Management from the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin, in 2009 and 2011, respectively. He received his PhD in Soil Science at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, in 2016, which was funded by the German WASCAL Programme on Climate Change and Agriculture.

“This year we honor an exceptional African scientist who truly understands and has harnessed the innovative spirit of smallholder farmers in West Africa,” said Barbara Stinson, President, World Food Prize Foundation. “His work with rice farmers to co-design and implement solutions for water scarcity has given many communities the tools they need to meet the challenges of climate change and thrive. We are honored to have him as the tenth anniversary recipient of the Borlaug Field Award.”

Although Dossou-Yovo’s journey at AfricaRice started after the civil unrest in Côte d’Ivoire under strained resources, he persisted in his research and excelled, becoming the designated lead of climate-related research at the Center. At AfricaRice, he focused on the improvement of water management and development of rice-based agricultural food systems in Africa. He initiated the widespread adoption of “Smart-Valleys,” with the intention of improving water control and further extending rice-based farming systems. This low-cost, innovative approach decreased the impact of drought on rice plants, which led to increased production of rice and farmers’ incomes and reinforced food security.

“Dr. Elliott Dossou-Yovo’s endeavors to mitigate the effects of climate change on rice farmers by improving rural communities’ access to water is truly worthy of Dr. Borlaug’s legacy and the tenth anniversary Borlaug Field Award,” said Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Dossou-Yovo’s dedication to research, efficient project management and effective communication has led to the scaling of his work throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. His passion shines through when working with stakeholders to co-design solutions and address their needs. He developed training manuals and e-learning tools, provided on-the-job training, and organized field days and workshops for hands-on capacity-building of thousands of smallholder farmers and other stakeholders with Smart-Valleys and many other important innovations. He then used the outcomes of these activities to further improve the systems and techniques to best meet the needs of farmers. 

As a young and skillful scientist, Dossou-Yovo has initiated collaborations with CGIAR centers, the World Bank, universities, development agencies such as Rikolto, private industry and other organizations in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Tanzania. His ability to push through all challenges has led to the advancement of his mission in achieving measurable and meaningful impact in farming communities.

“Dr. Dossou-Yovo is an outstanding young scientist who exhibits the traits underlying Norman Borlaug’s success,” said Ronnie Coffman, Chair, Borlaug Field Award Jury. “Dr. Dossou-Yovo’s Smart-Valleys approach to land and water development in the inland valley swamps of West Africa has been exemplary of the persistence, innovation, and farmer-focus central to Dr. Borlaug’s vision. As chair of the selection panel for the Borlaug Field Award, I want to express our sincere appreciation to The Rockefeller Foundation for their support of the Borlaug Field Award and the inspiration it has provided over the past ten years to many young agricultural scientists throughout the world.”

Established in 2011 with a generous endowment by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Borlaug Field Award is presented annually to a young scientist under the age of 40 who best emulates the characteristics demonstrated by Dr. Borlaug while developing miracle wheat in Mexico. This year the Foundation is honored to celebrate ten years of partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, elevating the work of young scientists around the world. 

“Throughout his career, Dossou-Yovo has exemplified the commitment to innovate agricultural techniques to overcome the challenges of climate change,” said Roy Steiner, Senior Vice President for the Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation. “As a result, his research has contributed to the improvement of rice production and poverty alleviation in Africa. By prioritizing input and suggestions from farmers to best adapt and fit their needs, Dossou-Yovo truly embodies Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and his mission to understand the needs of farmers firsthand.”

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