OLAM Awards Prize for Innovation in Food Security

Olam, a leading global agri-business operating across the value chain in 65 countries has announced that the Olam International Prize for Innovation in Food Security has been awarded to Professor Norman Uphoff, a professor of Government and International Agriculture and 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 25 th 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.

A prize of US$50,000 was awarded to Prof. Norman Uphoff and the Centre by an international jury panel at the 3rd Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture in Montpellier, France.

Launched in partnership with the leading scientific organization, Agropolis Fondation , 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% fewer rice seeds, up to 50% less water and, in many instances, no fertiliser. Rice yields are boosted by 20-50% (and often by much more), with farmers’ costs subsequently reduced by 10-20 %. 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 theyields 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’’, said Mr.Sunny Verghese, Group Managing Director and CEO at Olam.

Mr.Verghese observed that in addition to the efficacy of SRI, there are 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.

“As we celebrate our 25 years in the agricultural sector, I am proud that this anniversary prize should be awarded to SRI-RICE, a team that has ‘transcended boundaries’ the meaning of Olam. And with our own 10,000 hectare rice farm and small holder programme in Nigeriawe will certainly be exploring this research further.” Mr Verghese concluded.


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