2015 Louis Malassis & Olam Prizes Awardees

2015 Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize & Olam Prize Awardees



Claire Lanaud, Kazuki Saito and Zeyaur Khan were awarded the Agropolis Fondation's Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize "Distinguished Scientist", "Young Promising Scientist" and "for an outstanding career in agricultural development", respectively, in a ceremony held during the 3rd Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA15)on 16 March 2015 in Montpellier, France. This year, the inaugural Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security, given by leading agri-business firm Olam International to mark its 25th anniversary year, was awarded in conjunction with the Malassis Prize. Professor Norman Uphoff and the SRI International Network and Resources Centre at Cornell were awarded.


Please find here (in pdf) the "Louis Malassis Prize & Olam Prize 2015" presentations & awardees.







"Our early involvement in molecular genetic approaches has speed up the knowledge of tropical crops for their improvement. Our work on the molecular bases provided valuable information to define better strategies to increase and establish sustainable cocoa production while respecting the environment… "

Dr. Claire Lanaud



Molecular genetics at the service of tropical plants and cocoa

Claire Lanaud, molecular geneticist at the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and her team were among the pioneers to develop molecular tools dedicated to tropical crop studies. She led an international effort to sequence the whole cocoa genome in 2010.

Her goal has always been to contribute to the sustainable development of agriculture in the South countries through her involvement in the field of genetics/genomics and plant breeding of tropical crops. As the tropical species are generally less studied than European ones, Claire’s objectives were to use the latest technologies and high throughput analysis tools to progress more rapidly in their knowledge, identify key genes involved in traits of interest, elaborate diagnostic tools for cocoa breeding, and refine cocoa genome structure and variation. Her strong involvement on and knowledge of cocoa genetic resources have contributed to the collection and preservation of this precious resource. In a context of climatic changes, with an increased demand for chocolate consumption, her studies of the genetic determinants of cocoa traits of interest (disease resistance, yield, quality traits...) allow nowadays to better adapt the breeding strategies. Claire has worked with practically all types of stakeholders in the cocoa chain – from local communities safeguarding native coco plants in the Ecuadorian Amazonia to private chocolate companies. Her 40-year scientific career has been dedicated to the improvement of agriculture in the South and in training researchers from these countries.

See video "2015 Louis Malassis Prize - "Distinguished scientist" awardee : Claire Lanaud"










"Young scientists can become a driving force in enhancing crop productivity to meet increased food demand. They generate new ideas, which can be tested together with farmers and other stakeholders so that these become innovations that are suitable in the field. "


Dr. Kazuki Saito



Working to close the yield gap

Originally from the rice producing province of Niigata in Japan, Kazuki Saito has been working on improving rice productivity and farmers’ livelihood in fragile environments since 2000, when he started his Master’s degree in Southeast Asia. He has earned his PhD in Agriculture from Kyoto University in 2005 and then moved to Cotonou, Benin, in 2006 to work as rice agronomist/ agro-physiologist at the Africa Rice Center.

Before, in Laos, he tested improved upland indica -type varieties comparing them with traditional tropical japonica -type varieties. His study showed that the improved varieties out-yielded the traditional varieties by more than 70% and were also responsive to nitrogen fertilizer application. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), he also introduced improved indica -type and aus -type upland varieties to West Africa and identified ones that were superior to popular upland New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties in terms of high yielding ability, strong weed suppressive ability, and superior adaptation to low soil fertility. These findings were against widespread belief among scientists in SSA that tropical japonica varieties have much better adaptation than indica varieties to upland conditions in West Africa. His studies have led to a re-focus of variety improvement at AfricaRice, which now includes the materials he identified. He is currently leading the 21 country-member Africa-wide Rice Agronomy Task Force, whose work is on yield gap assessment, testing of good agricultural practices in farmers’ fields and introduction of agricultural innovations, such as a RiceAdvice , a free android-based application decision-support tool.

See video "2015 Louis Malassis Prize - "Young promising scientist" awardee : Kazuki Saito"









"I am happy that I have devoted my life to developing and adapting push-pull, and helping to bring food security to Africa. My aim is to reach at least 10 million people with the technology, while expanding the science behind push–pull to more cropping systems and different agroecosystems "

Dr. Zeyaur Khan



Push–pull technology: using plants to deal with pests and weeds

With his team at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya, and colleagues at Rothamsted Research in the UK, Professor Zeyaur Khan uncovered the chemical and ecological relationships at the heart of an innovative system: push–pull technology.

More than 96,000 farmers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia have already adopted push–pull technology to face with striga weeds and stemborers pests, which can cause complete yield losses, estimated to cost US$14 billion each year in sub-Saharan Africa, and affecting more than 40% of its arable land. Maize, for example, is grown with two companion plants, desmodium and Napier grass, which together tackle stemborers and striga. Desmodium, grown between the rows of maize, acts as a repellent plant, driving stemborers from the cereal crop (the ‘push’). Napier grass, planted as a border to the plot, acts as a trap plant, attracting stemborers (the ‘pull’). As an additional benefit from the technology, the companion plants provide nutritious, high-value animal fodder, which farmers can sell or feed to stall-fed dairy animals. This approach helps farmers increase food production and raise farm income without the need to buy pesticides and fertilizers. This is a  perfect example of a practical, affordable, low-input production system and with significant impact on the livelihoods of the poorest African farmers. Dr Khan has built an extensive network of partners to ensure sustained dissemination and uptake of  the  technology  among  poor  communities. He has also trained over 50 PhD and MSc graduates, mostly Africans.

See video "2015 Louis Malassis Prize - "Outstanding career in agricultural development" awardee : Zeyaur Khan"








"SRI is not a “silver bullet” that will solve global food security. This challenge is too complex to be met with a single effort. It is essential that scientific research focused on improving global food security is supported and encouraged to ensure a collaborative, successful and sustainable approach "

Dr. Norman Uphoff


System of Rice Intensification: a methodology to address the global food crisis

An agroecologically-based methodology of growing rice, called System of Rice Intensification (SRI), enhances crop yields and factor productivity and also resilience to the adverse effects of climate change. Professor Norman Uphoff and the SRI International Network and Resources Centre at Cornell actively promote it to contribute in alleviating the global food crisis.

For future global food security, farmers must be able to produce more food with fewer resources: less land, less water, less labor, lower energy requirements, and less adverse environmental impact. This challenge is made more difficult by deficits in land quality – erosion, salinization, and loss of soil fertility. It is further hampered by the diminishing quantity, reliability and quality of water for agricultural use. The crop and water management system known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), developed in Madagascar 30 years ago by Henri Laulanié and now spreading around the world, addresses all aspects of this challenge. SRI methods increase rice yields by 20 to 50%, often 100% and even more, with 25-50% reductions in water and 80-90% less seed, with reduced or even no reliance on chemical fertilizers and agrochemical protection. SRI rice plants having stronger tillers and larger, deeper root systems are also more resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses: pests and diseases, drought, flooding, lodging from storm effects. The SRI effect has been reported now from over 50 countries, and in China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam where SRI has had most government support, at least 10 million farmers are using most or all of the recommended methods, using less water and also having lower costs of production, with more benign effects on the natural environment.


See video "2015 Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security" awardee : Norman Uphoff"

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