SINGAPORE – A team that has developed and implemented a highly effective botanical rodenticide, which is helping curb rats and reduce crop loss in Africa, has been named the winner of the 2021 Olam Food Prize for Innovation in Food Security. The 2021 Olam Food Prize has been awarded to the research team led by Luwieke Bosma, from the Green Rodent Consortium, MetaMeta Research, Wageningen, in The Netherlands, and Dr. Meheretu Yonas, from the Rodent Research Unit, Mekelle University, Mekelle, in Ethiopia.
Rats are a problem in African farming and are responsible for about a quarter of crops lost in the field and during storage, with each rat, on average, consuming 35 grams of grain per week. The team’s solution is based on farmers’ traditional practices of using certain tubers and plants to deter rodents and plug their burrows.
Detailed research in the lab and field found that a mixture of two of these botanicals offered the most potent potential and did so in an environmentally sustainable manner. Two years of applying the rodenticide brought rat outbreaks under control resulting in a significant impact on farm productivity and profitability.
“We believe botanical rodenticides, combined with other ecologically-based methods could be a game-changer for sustainable agricultural practices for the most vulnerable on our planet. We are incredibly honoured and excited to be awarded this year’s Olam Food Prize and it will help us towards our ambition to improve the availability of affordable and nutritious food, and increase the productivity and incomes for farmers,” said Ms. Bosma.
“Locally grown botanical rodenticides are more sustainable and affordable, and our model for devising solutions, including training on research and development and on setting up programmes, can be used to explore solutions with other plants in multiple countries,” said Dr. Yonas.
“It is estimated that globally 1.2 billion tons of food never leaves the farm. Crop losses have a significant impact not only on the livelihoods and welfare of farmers and their families, but also on global food security when nearly one in ten people worldwide are undernourished. Innovative solutions, such as this year’s prize winners, can make an important contribution to reducing the impact of on-farm food loss during harvesting and storage which remains a critical problem,” said Sunny Verghese, Co-founder and Group CEO, Olam International.
The Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security is awarded in partnership with Agropolis Fondation, which brings together over 40 member institutions, public authorities, and civil society actors for dialogue and interaction on agriculture, food and environment research. The Prize aims to support scientific research that can deliver transformational impacts within global agriculture, in line with UN SDG#2: End Hunger. Entries for the 2021 Prize were received from academic and research institutions, civil societies and the private sector, and the winner will receive a US$75,000 grant for scaling up their proven research.
Previous winners of the Olam Food Prize have included a solution to help give smallholder farmers a “best fit” model for what, where, and how to grow crops in food insecure areas; the development of a strain of heat-tolerant wheat, able to withstand the 40°C temperatures of sub-Saharan Africa that is now being successfully cultivated; and a revolutionary approach to growing rice.