World Food Prize 2016 - Reflections (Part I)

posted on October 18, 2016 4:40pm

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Marie Fausta Dutuze is a second-year Ph.D. candidate studying animal and livestock science at Louisiana State University. She was one of 12 BHEARD scholars who recently attended the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa. She is pictured at left with Dr. Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi, and fellow BHEARD scholar Getrude Mphwanthe.

Attending World Food Prize 2016 was among the most inspiring experiences I have ever had! I felt incredibly honored and fascinated to spend the week by meeting people with outstanding achievements in contributing to food security all over the world.

For me personally, the fact that all the four 2016 World Food Prize laureates were working as a team showed how (by working together) we can go far and accomplish many things we couldn’t alone.

As a researcher in the agricultural sector studying the epidemiology of animal mosquito-borne diseases, I am often reminded of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s words, “Take it to the farmer.” Especially after listening to Dr. Andrew Mude, the 2016 recipient of the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. In addition to his brilliantly eloquent speech, Dr. Mude’s life work is a shining example for all of us to follow. As a senior economist he could have focused his career in many different areas but instead he preferred going back to his roots in Kenya to help the pastoralists by putting his incredible intelligence on their service.

The most exciting experience for me was to meet the global breadfruit team and discover that the breadfruit (which I did not even know the existence before attending that conference) has some mosquito repellent properties! That was very exciting and very inspiring for me. I suggested an idea to promote this fruit in Rwanda, especially in areas with a high prevalence in malaria and Rift Valley Fever. The promotion of this fruit would not only beneficial in preventing mosquito-borne diseases but it will also contribute to food security, as it is a good source of energy and minerals. Only for that it was worth attending this event!

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As someone who has always been interested by female empowerment, I enjoyed the Borlaug Dialogue panel that addressed “Women Leaders Driving Science and Innovation for Agricultural Transformation in Africa.” Dr. Jemimah Njuki reminded the audience that the “traditional image of an African woman with child on the back and a hoe in her hands has to end.”

I also remember feeling terribly sad and concerned when Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi, said that “it’s very unfortunate that in Africa, women are mostly the ones who cultivate the crops, process them, cook them but eat last and even less.” This unfortunate reality reinforced the urgency and complexity surrounding female empowerment in Africa.

The event was a good opportunity for networking. I met people from my country Rwanda, who work in different institutions. I met Borlaug fellows and we exchange about the challenges and solutions for food security in our respective countries.

All in all it was a very rewarding experience. I can almost hear my voice saying this to one of my friends when we were leave the Iowa Capitol, at the end of the Laureate Award Ceremony: “This event has reminded me why I wake up early every morning, go to the lab and come back late and tired.” I thank BHEARD for giving the opportunity to attend this event.