Research and farming institutions from Brazil, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe win FAO Awards

Rome – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today honoured three research and farming institutions from Brazil, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe, the first conferred under a new FAO Awards programme.

The Champion Award and Partnership Award were presented by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at a ceremony held during the Organization’s 170th Council meeting. The Council is FAO’s highest governing body meeting in between the full Conference which takes place very two years.

“Today, as we gather to recognize our first group of awardees, we find ourselves facing challenging times, with conflicts in many parts of the world; the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic; the effects of the climate crisis; and other humanitarian and social emergencies, pushing food prices to a record high. Millions of people are struggling worldwide with hunger, poverty and malnutrition, especially rural farmers, women and the youth,” the FAO Director-General said.

“Our awardees have demonstrated through their accomplishments that we have the tools, knowledge and capacity to make positive changes, and to make a difference in people’s lives”, he added.

The FAO Champion Award, the UN agency’s highest corporate award and carries a prize of $50,000, recognizes significant and outstanding contributions towards advancing FAO’s overall goals, including the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

It was given to the Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation (Embrapa) whose “widely recognized and well proven track record in research and development, providing innovation, training and agritech solutions,” was acknowledged by the FAO Awards Selection Committee. Embrapa through its network and programmes has helped expand and scale-up advanced technologies and systems. Its work of collaboration spans many geographical areas and fields of knowledge, with thematic, ecoregional and product- based research centres leading the way in disseminating and exchanging sustainable agrifood practices and information, the Selection Committee noted.

The Netherlands’ Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and the Foundations for Farming (FfF) of Zimbabwe, shared the $10 000 Partnership Award.

The Awards Selection Committee cited the WUR’s partnership with FAO “which puts innovative collaborations and enhanced coordination at its centre. It sets a new joint vision with the two organizations bridging the science-policy interface, linking research staff and policy-makers, and working through agile actions to efficiently tackle challenges in a rapidly changing world”. This includes developing and sharing knowledge and harnessing science, technologies and innovation for transforming agrifood systems.

The FfF “has engaged with local communities and relevant stakeholders to improve people’s lives by responding to their needs and rights,” the Selection Committee noted. It pointed to how initiatives led by the FfF demonstrated evidence of impact, helping nine million Zimbabweans achieve household food security for less than $1 per week and how FfF has developed its Pfumvudza concept which involves farming significantly less land and increasing natural soil fertility, and improved management and farming standards.

The FAO Director-General bestowed the awards to representatives of the organizations who attended the ceremony in person.

“Global problems require global solutions and Embrapa has built a strong international cooperation network to search for joint solutions to tackle challenges like poverty, hunger, decarbonization and sustainable agriculture”, Tiago Toledo Ferreira, Director of Institutional Management of Embrapa said in his acceptance speech.

Ron Mazier, Director, Corporate Strategy and Accounts from Wageningen University and Research noted that “together FAO and WUR must play a vital role in the transition of food systems worldwide, in conjunction with all stakeholders”.

For his part Matthew Mbanga, Chief Executive Office from the Foundation for Farming Zimbabwe said: “We look forward to continuing our partnership and holding hands to equip and inspire young Africans across the continent to become champions of agriculture”.

“Their achievements lift our spirits, inspire action and encourage greater collaboration”, QU added in his closing remarks.

In June 2021, the 195 Members of FAO approved at its Conference a new awards programme, consolidating and revamping existing awards under a unified FAO brand name, and establishing five categories of corporate awards, two of which were conferred at today’s event. The Achievement Award, Innovation Award and Employee Awards will be presented later in the year.