Champion for Agriculture, Nutrition and Food Security in Africa

In Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, on September 6, 2017, the African continent witnessed a momentous occasion as the 2017 Africa Food Prize was conferred upon Hon. Prof. Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o, a distinguished professor, the first nutrition professor in Kenya and the first woman Nutrition Professor in Sub-Saharan Africa and unwavering advocate for nutrition from Kenya. Recognized as the leading voice of nutrition in Africa, Ruth has played a pivotal role in reshaping the agricultural landscape, earning her this prestigious accolade.

The Africa Food Prize, a symbol of excellence in agriculture, serves to spotlight exemplary efforts that transform lives and economies. In 2017, this esteemed award was shared by two extraordinary women, Prof. Oniang’o (Kenya) and Mme Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly (Mali) representing both ends of the agricultural supply chain.

Ruth's recognition stems from her relentless advocacy for the availability and affordability of diverse and nutritious crops across the continent. Her ground-breaking work in academia, research, and policy has seamlessly connected agriculture and nutrition, making her a trailblazer in driving Africa's agricultural transformation.

H.E. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, the Chairperson of the Prize Committee, expressed immense pride in both winners, stating, "It gives me immense pride that this year’s winners are both women. This is a clear demonstration that women in Africa are at the forefront in terms of connecting the rising food needs and the continent’s vision for prosperity driven by agriculture and agri-business."

Former Kenyan Parliament member Prof. Oniang'o, (2003-2007), focused on combating poverty, hunger, and promoting science, technology, and gender equality. She dedicated efforts to agricultural research, food security, and bio-safety legislation. Committed to empowering smallholder farmers and rural women, she strives to enhance households' capacity to produce, purchase, and consume higher-quality food.

"I believe we are what we eat. I realized early on in my life, when I dreamt of being a doctor, that food is the first medicine," expressed Prof. Oniang'o upon receiving the prestigious award. Her humility was evident as she acknowledged, "I am humbled to receive this Prize and believe it highlights the work we have done and, more importantly, it will contribute towards shaping our continent’s food future. I am a strong believer that Africa shall, one day, feed the world."

The impact of Prof. Oniang'o's work reverberates through institutions like CIAT Africa, where Dr. Debisi Araba expressed immense pride, saying, "We at CIAT Africa are immensely proud of these two titans in agriculture. We salute your innovative spirit and contribution to the development of agriculture in Africa." Prof. Oniang'o's insights, gained during her tenure as a former member of the CIAT Board of Trustees, have significantly influenced the center's research, addressing pressing challenges in African agriculture.

Dr. Ruben Echeverría, Director General of CIAT, added his commendation, stating, "This is fantastic news, and the award thoroughly deserved. After working with Ruth for many years, I’ve seen how her vision, commitment, and passion have helped strengthen and guide CIAT research in Africa."

"The laureates embody not only the entrepreneurial spirit of women across Africa; they demonstrate something we know to be true in agriculture: that to succeed we have to work together. My enormous congratulations to them both," he continued.

H.E. President Olusegun Obasanjo's words underscored the transformative impact of the winners, stating, "It is not by coincidence that Africa's food situation has improved year after year. These two winners have greatly contributed to the transformation of the lives of small farmers and pushing for change that has led to great progress in continent wide nutrition levels."

The acknowledgment reflects the profound influence Prof. Oniang'o and Mme Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly have had on the agricultural landscape, fostering positive change across the continent.

Mr. Adams Ephraims-Onuche, the Sasakawa Global 2000 Communications Officer, conveyed this, stating, "The prize recognizes the best examples of those using agriculture to transform people’s lives and stimulate economic growth and development." Yoshimasa Kanayama, the President of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), extended his congratulations, affirming, "Her award is well deserved."

The University community at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Kenya, commended Prof. Ruth Oniang'o for her transformative contributions. She served as the first woman professor, paving the way for excellence in nutrition education. Prof. Oniang'o's dedicated service, including being JKUAT’s Founder Director of Graduate Studies, has left an indelible mark on the institution. JKUAT celebrated Prof. Oniang'o's achievements, acknowledging her significant role in reshaping the field of Food Science and Nutrition. The university expressed pride in her recognition as the winner of the 2017 Africa Food Prize, affirming her impact on both academia and agriculture.

The university community joins in congratulating Prof. Oniang'o, recognizing her as a great pillar of transformation.

The two women were selected out of 643 nominations, a testament to the exceptional nature of their contributions amidst a pool of outstanding contenders.

This is the Africa Food Prize!