Winners of the 2019 MAIZE Youth Innovators Awards – Africa receive their awards at the STMA meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. From left to right: Admire Shayanowako, Blessings Likagwa, Ismael Mayanja and Hildegarde Dukunde. Fifth awardee Mila Lokwa Giresse not pictured. (Photo: J.Bossuet/CIMMYT)
LUSAKA, Zambia (CIMMYT) – The CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) officially announced the winners of the 2019 MAIZE Youth Innovators Awards – Africa at an awards ceremony held on May 9, 2019, in Lusaka, Zambia. These awards recognize the contributions of young women and men under 35 to innovation in African maize-based agri-food systems, including research for development, seed systems, agribusiness, and sustainable intensification. The awards, an initiative of MAIZE in collaboration with Young Professionals for Agricultural Research and Development (YPARD), were offered in three categories: farmer, change agent, and researcher.
The MAIZE Youth Innovators Awards aim to identify young innovators who can serve to inspire other young people to get involved in maize-based agri-food systems. This is the second year of the award, which was launched in 2018 with a first cohort of winners from Asia. Part of the vision is to create a global network of young innovators in maize based systems from around the world.
2019 award recipients were invited to attend the Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project meeting in Lusaka, May 7-9, where they had the opportunity to present their work. The project meeting and award ceremony also allowed these young innovators to network and exchange experiences with MAIZE researchers and partners. Looking forward, award recipients may also get the opportunity to collaborate with MAIZE and its partner scientists in Africa on implementing or furthering their innovations.
Dukunde is a graduate in Human Nutrition and serves as a Sales Associate for Agrifood Business Consulting Ltd. She has been at the forefront of preventing aflatoxin contamination in Rwanda by helping smallholder farmers to access low-cost post-harvest equipment, namely DryCard™ and Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags. The DryCard™ is an inexpensive device developed by University of California Davis researchers for determining if dried food is dry enough to prevent mold growth and aflatoxin contamination during storage and reducing post-harvest losses.
Mila Lokwa Giresse (Democratic Republic of the Congo) – Category: Change Agent
Giresse is the CEO of Mobile Agribiz. This company develops the Mobile Agribiz App, an innovative tool to enhance the pest and disease diagnostics of fall armyworm in maize. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to easily detect the pest across maize crops at any stage of the production cycle. The app aims to assist farmers, extension workers, and agribusinesses in democratic republic of Congo with early detection and accurate diagnosis. Through SMS and smart alert notifications, the Mobile Agribiz App provides farmers with constant reminders and real-time information on how to detect, manage, and address fall armyworm on maize.
Blessings Likagwa (Malawi) – Category: Farmer
Likagwa lives in Mtunthama, Malawi, where he works on his family's farm. From a young age he has had an interest in farming and for the past eight years he has been involved in growing a variety of crops, especially maize and cassava. In the future he hopes to use his bachelor's degree in Community Development and his interest in technology to help smallholder farmers in Malawi and Eastern Africa adapt to the challenges of climate change and rapid population growth. Since 2018, in collaboration with UNICEF and Kyoto University, he has investigated how drone technology can improve agricultural performance and benefit Malawi's smallholders.
Ismael Mayanja (Uganda) – Category: Researcher
Mayanja is a 2019 graduate of Makerere University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering. He is currently assisting research at Makerere University to ascertain and quantify post-harvest losses associated with transportation of agricultural produce in the markets of Kampala district, Uganda. His primary research interest lies in post-harvest handling and technology, motivated by the reported 40% post-harvest loss of agricultural produce by farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. He developed a bicycle-powered maize cleaning machine to increase efficiency and reduce time dedicated to cleaning maize at several primary schools in Uganda.
Admire Shayanowako (Republic of South Africa) – Category: Researcher
Shayanowako is a researcher at the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) – University KwaZulu-Natal. His research focuses on the parasitic weed Striga, also known as witch weed, which causes severe crop losses to millions of small-scale African maize farmers. The goal of the project is to combine breeding for Striga resistance in maize with a soil fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. strigae (FOS) that is highly specific in its pathogenicity to Striga and acts as a biological control agent. The breeding approach aims to develop at least partial host resistance in open pollinated maize germplasms that are adapted to the semi-arid regions. When partial host resistance is augmented with biological control agent FOS, parasitic effects of Striga decline overwhelmingly. Currently, the breeding component of the research has embarked on identification of quantitative trait locus (QTL) controlling Striga resistance in maize through genomic based approaches.
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