University of Arizona alumna Maria Andrade, a plant scientist whose research led to the introduction of nine drought-tolerant varieties of sweet potato to farmers in Mozambique, is one of four individuals to receive the 2016 World Food Prize, announced by the foundation that supports the award.
Andrade, a native of Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of West Africa, studied agronomy and plant genetics at the UA and graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She began breeding research with the orange-fleshed sweet potato in 1997 in drought-prone areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Her approach incorporated strategies to address food insecurity, malnutrition and income generation.
Also selected as World Food Prize laureates for 2016 were two of Andrade's 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., founder and director of HarvestPlus.
"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.
"Some of the UA's most important contributions come through the accomplishments of our graduates," Hart said. "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."
A turning point in Andrade's career came when she was given the opportunity to join the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and work in southern Africa. This exposed her to the international agricultural research environment. A majority of children in Mozambique suffer from vitamin A deficiency, and she has played a role in that country as a plant breeder of biofortified orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
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. The World Food Prize Foundation is overseen by Kenneth M. Quinn, former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia.