The 10th Annual Times Higher Education Awards ceremony held in the evening of the 27th November saw NRI pick up the prestigious prize for International Collaboration of the Year for its flagship project Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA) supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The glittering black-tie event brought together professionals from Higher Education to celebrate successes in the sector.
NRI’s win for International Collaboration of the Year for C:AVA showcases a project involving more than 200 organisations in Africa, with key partners from five universities, research institutes and NGOs in Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. The prize also saw the humble cassava step into the limelight. This starchy root crop is an important staple in sub-Saharan Africa, yet highly perishable after harvest. C:AVA focussed on processing the root quickly into High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) to reduce losses, whilst intervening at every stage of the value chain to boost production, processing and end use. The end result was a high quality, affordable, local product good enough to replace imported wheat flour and corn starch. By 2012–2013, the initiative had processed 24,000 tonnes of HQCF and supported 89 village processing groups and 51 enterprises.
As Joanna Newman, vice-principal (international) of King’s College, London, and one of the awards judges, stated, “This project was very impressive for its scale, transforming the livelihoods of 90,000 subsistence farmers. It was truly an international collaboration.”
Throughout the project, NRI’s focus on capacity building support, management, finance and technical assistance led to the transition of project leadership from NRI to Nigeria’s Federal University of Agriculture at Abeokuta (FUNAAB) in 2012–2013, a significant example of an African institution taking the lead on projects which benefit the continent. C:AVA Project Manager, Kolawole Adebayo, Professor at FUNAAB, collected the award with NRI Director, Andrew Westby, at the ceremony.
Professor Tom Barnes, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research & Enterprise at Greenwich University, congratulated all those involved in the prize-winning project, saying, “Our latest award is a tremendous tribute to the hard work, dedication and world-class expertise of our staff at the Natural Resources Institute.”
The Gates Foundation has extended the C:AVA programme into a second phase, with a grant of USD 18.8 million for C:AVA II, building on the success of C:AVA to continue facilitating systems to improve the livelihoods of smallholder cassava farmers in Africa.
Research links: C:AVA website | C:AVA II website | NRI's Root and tuber crops in development programme
Media links: News article in Leadership, Nigeria | University of Greenwich press release