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Promoting agricultural innovation

Doctors Pamela Ronald and Matty Demont were awarded the Agropolis Fondation's Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize Distinguished Scientist and Young Promising Scientist, respectively in a ceremony held during the 2nd Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) on 29 October in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The two winners each received €20000 and a certificate. This year's Prize is also supported by the Languedoc Roussillon Region.

Dr. Ronald is a Professor at the Department
of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center,
University of California-Davis (USA)

" One of the greatest challenges of
our time is to produce more food
without further destroying the environment.
A key to building a sustainable
agriculture in the 21st century is to integrate the science of agricultural ecology with modern genetic

- Dr. Pamela Ronald


Dr. Pamela Ronald has always been interested in food, farming and the natural world. She was drawn to rice research because of the importance of rice as a staple food for half the world’s population. She has devoted the last 20 years of her research to understanding how plants respond to the environment.

With the support of her team and collaborators, she has worked on improving rice resistance to diseases and tolerance to flooding, which are serious problems of rice crops in Asia and Africa. Her groundbreaking discoveries in plant science have influenced the research of scientists around the world and have benefitted farmers in the developing world. She has developed a wide range of partnerships which have contributed substantially to the success of her research.

“It has been a great privilege to work as a scientist in the public sector at the University of California Davis for 20 years. When I first began my research, molecular genetics work on rice was just beginning. Despite the challenges, rice research drew me because of its global importance to small-holder farmers. I believed that even small contributions could potentially have a large and positive impact on the livelihood of poor famers. The choice to work on rice has been very rewarding both professionally and personally and led to isolation of genes controlling resistance to disease and tolerance to stress,” says Pamela.

Pamela is grateful to have opportunities to work with geneticists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and other institutions. She hopes to continue to have opportunities to advance basic research and also to engage the public on issues of food security, plant genetics and ecologically-based farming.

In 1996, she founded the Genetic Resources Recognition Fund, a UC-Davis programme which aims to share benefits of basic research discoveries with farmers and scientists in less developed countries.

Born in 1961 in Burlingame, California (USA), she obtained her PhD at the University of California-Berkeley. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and holds a Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair Award.

A Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at UC-Davis, she co-authored the book Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food, selected by The New Earth Archive as one of the 25 most powerful and influential books, with her husband, Raoul Adamchak, an organic farmer.


D r. Matty Demont is a Principal Value-chain
economist at Africa Rice Center. He is based
in Saint Louis, Senegal.

"Young scientists need to adopt a
value chain approach in their research
and focus on the bottlenecks that prevent value chains either from working or from
being pro-poor. Such approach may shed
light on recurring questions like why
resource-poor farmers are poorly linked
to markets."

- Dr. Matty Demont




Dr. Matty Demont is a very good example of a truly multi-disciplinary researcher. Although rooted in agricultural economics, his research has touched many fields including agronomy, entomology, ecological and social sciences, psychology and even musicology.

The inspiring courses of his professors at the University of Leuven on agricultural marketing and economics in developing countries and on farming systems in the tropics were determinant for his further career. During his MSc field research in Côte d’Ivoire, he developed a particular interest in African markets.

His studies in Montpellier SupAgro further contributed to defining his research career, studying tropical farming systems and being inspired by prominent French scholars, including Louis Malassis, who showed the power of markets in driving rural development.

For Matty, the biggest challenge for African stakeholders is to create favorable market conditions for private sector investment in the domestic rice sector through an optimal mix of investment between supply-shifting R&D (breeding, integrated crop management, etc.) and demand-lifting R&D (sensory and nutritional quality, processing, etc.) as well as optimal public-private linkages in Africa’s multiple national and regional rice sector development efforts.

Working with the private enterprises and more than 1,600 women consumers throughout Africa - through participatory approaches - has provided him unique insights into the bottlenecks in upgrading rice value chains in the region that could not have been obtained through simple surveys or through working with farmers alone.

In the past, much of the rice research that have been conducted in Africa had been based on productivity enhancing R&D, based on the assumption that raising productivity would automatically replace massive rice imports by local produce. The Awardee initiated innovative new approaches to understanding African rice consumers, and contributed substantially to the paradigm shift.

In the next 10 years, Matty sees himself leading a team working on topics related to developing countries and being involved in training and education.

Born in 1973 in Bornem, Belgium, he obtained his PhD in Bioscience Engineering in 2006 from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. He was with the Center for Agricultural & Food Economics at Leuven until he moved to the African continent serving, first as an Associate Agricultural Economist, and currently as Principal Value Chain Economist of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) in Saint-Louis, Senegal.