One of the four recipients of the 2016 World Food Prize is plant scientist Maria Andrade, a University of Arizona (UA) alumna whose research led to the introduction of nine drought-tolerant varieties of sweet potato for farmers in Mozambique.
At the UA, Andrade studied agronomy and plant genetics, and graduated with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She began breeding research with the orange-fleshed sweet potato in 1997 in drought-prone areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Andrade’s agricultural research approach has focused on strategies to address food insecurity, malnutrition, and income generation.
“As a land-grant university, there is no higher calling than to help feed the world,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. “Consequently, we are enormously gratified to see one of the UA’s graduates develop a nutritionally fortified crop that will have a positive impact on millions of lives.”
Hart added, “We are honored to see Dr. Maria Andrade recognized as part of the team at the International Potato Center that earned what has been described as the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.”
Also selected as laureates were Andrade’s two colleagues at the International Potato Center - Robert Mwanga of Uganda and Jan Low of the U.S. The fourth World Food Prize recipient was Howarth Bouis of the U.S., the founder and director of HarvestPlus.
Andrade is a native of the Cape Verde Islands located off the coast of West Africa. She was given the opportunity to join the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and work in southern Africa which allowed her to study in an international agricultural research environment.
A majority of children in Mozambique suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Andrade has played a role in that country as a plant breeder of bio-fortified orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
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The World Food Prize recognizes the achievements of those who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world.
Since 1987, the prize has been awarded annually to recognize contributions in any field involved in the world food supply: food and agriculture, science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership, and the social sciences.