April 29 2019, Washington DC/Nairobi –The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has awarded Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), its 2019 Public Welfare Medal.
The NAS Public Welfare Medal is the Academy’s most prestigious award and is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good. Dr. Kalibata was recognized for her work in driving Africa’s agricultural transformation through modern science and effective policy, helping to lift more than a million Rwandans out of poverty and scaling impact for millions more African farmers.
Upon receiving the award, Dr. Kalibata emphasised that agriculture has tremendous power to move massive numbers of people out of poverty and is the key to building prosperity in Africa.
“My presence here today is proof of possibilities. Possibilities whose reality on my continent is fueled by agriculture. I grew up as a refugee in Uganda and even attained my PhD while I lived in a refugee camp. Throughout this period, agriculture sustained my family and got us out of poverty. I am happy to witness my country Rwanda and a few other countries in Africa awakening to the tremendous power of agriculture to move massive numbers of people out of poverty” she said.
Since 2014, Dr. Kalibata has been the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African-led organization that works with public and private partners to promote rapid, inclusive, sustainable agricultural growth and food security by giving farmers access to locally adapted and high-yielding seeds, encouraging judicious use of fertilizer, promoting policy reforms, and increasing access to structured markets to improve the livelihoods of farming households.
Prior to joining AGRA, Dr. Kalibata spent six years as Rwanda’s minister of agriculture and animal resources, implementing a science-based approach to agriculture that greatly increased efficiency and productivity and transformed Rwanda to a largely food-secure nation. In this role, Dr. Kalibata was widely heralded as one of the most successful agriculture ministers in sub-Saharan Africa. During her tenure from 2008 to 2014, Rwanda reduced its poverty by more than 50 percent, largely through targeted agricultural programs for family farmers.
Congratulating Dr. Kalibata on her achievement, Susan Wessler, Home Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the selection committee for the award observed that throughout her career, Dr. Kalibata has recognized that family farmers are the key to agricultural success. “She has consistently made family farmers the focus of science-based policies and interventions. Under her leadership, a remarkable agricultural transformation is underway in Africa that will benefit many generations to come.”
On his part, Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences said, “Dr. Kalibata has long championed science and evidence as the basis for practical agricultural policies that have transformed Rwanda to a model of prosperity and security. Her actions exemplify science as a powerful force for growth and well-being, and we are thrilled to present her with our highest award.”
As president of AGRA, Dr. Kalibata leads a team of more than 200 across 11 priority countries – one of the largest pools of agricultural scientists and specialists in Africa – working with global, regional, and national partners to drive a portfolio of investments worth more than US$500 million. AGRA’s goal is to improve the food security and incomes of 30 million farming households in the 11 countries by 2021.
According to Dr Kalibata farmers are not interested in charity or agriculture as a social program, they want a decent income from their work.
“My work in Rwanda took me into the field where I quickly learnt that all of the innovations developed by scientists, however good, would be useless—unless farmers had an incentive to adopt them. I challenge scientist to engage with policy makers and the private sector to advocate for the adoption of their innovations. Sitting in our labs and getting the work going is not enough,” says Dr. Kalibata.
AGRA is principally funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.K.’s Department for International Development, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA).
Read her full acceptance speech here
For all media enquiries:
Waiganjo Njoroge, Interim Head of Communication, AGRA at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel. No: +254 723 857 270
Established in 2006, AGRA is an African-led, Africa-based and farmer-centered institution working to put smallholder farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy by transforming their farming from a solitary struggle to survive to a business that thrives. Working in collaboration with our partners including African governments, researchers, development partners, the private sector and civil society AGRA’s work primarily focuses on smallholder farmers – men and women who typically cultivate staple crops on two hectares or less. In the new strategy for 2017-2021, AGRA is supporting 11 African countries and 30 million smallholder farm households (150 million individuals) to increase their incomes and improve their food security.
For more information, visit www.agra.org
About the NAS Public Welfare Medal
The NAS Public Welfare Medal is the Academy’s most prestigious award and is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good. The first NAS Public Welfare Medal was presented in 1914 to George W. Goethals and William C. Gorgas for their distinguished services in connection with the building of the Panama Canal. Goethals was the chief engineer of the canal project, which was completed two years ahead of schedule. Gorgas acted as chief sanitary officer on the canal project and implemented far-reaching sanitary programs that were instrumental in permitting the construction of the Panama Canal, as they significantly prevented illness due to yellow fever and malaria.
Over the past 100 years the NAS Public Welfare Medal has continued to recognize those individuals who have worked tirelessly to promote science for the benefit of humanity. Previous recipients of the medal include Paul Farmer, Alan Alda, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill and Melinda Gates, Ismail Serageldin, Eugenie C. Scott, Neal Lane, Norman Borlaug, William T. Golden, Maxine F. Singer, C. Everett Koop, and Carl Sagan. See full list of past recipients: http://www.nasonline.org/programs/awards/public-welfare-medal.html