AWARD WINNERS 2015 -
DRES. EVA AND FRED
The Foundation fiat panis, as successor to the Father and Son Eiselen Foundation, awarded in 2015 the Justus von Liebig-Award for World Nutrition to the research couple Weltzien-Rattunde for their outstanding performance in the fight against hunger and rural poverty. The prize was endowed with 25,000 EUR and was awarded on the occasion of the World Food Day Colloquium at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart.
Dr. Eva and Dr. Fred Weltzien-Rattunde have dedicated their entire careers in an exemplary manner to the fight against hunger and poverty of small-holder farmers in West Africa and India. Together they are working at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Mali, West Africa, as sorghum breeders since 1997. Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is worldwide the fifth most important cereal crop and provides a staple food for more than 500 million people in more than 30 countries. Sorghum is cultivated on more than 40 million ha in 105 countries in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas and plays a crucial role in food security for small holder farm families in marginal regions of the semi-arid to arid dryland zones. The overall goal of the Weltzien-Rattunde couples’ work is the improvement of resistance to drought, diseases and pests as well as improving the nutritional qualities of sorghum for human consumption and for animal fodder.
Their work was predominantly embedded in holistic, interdisciplinary programs in collaboration with partners from research institutes from developed countries as well as research and development institutions in the targeted regions.
Dres. Eva and Fred Weltzien-Rattunde have, jointly with their diverse project partners, made important contributions in the collection, evaluation and use of the genetic diversity of local landraces for breeding purposes, the analysis of genotype by environment interactions as a prerequisite for the development of locally well-adapted base-populations, the improvement of plant nutrient acquisition and use efficiency, the development of new sorghum varieties with superior and stable yielding ability, as well as resistance to the devastating parasitic weed Striga, the improvement of micronutrient concentrations in the grain to help reduce malnutrition, and the development of local seed systems.
The Weltzien-Rattunde couple is known among their peers as pioneers of participatory plant breeding. Farmers, female and male, from the respective cultivation areas are included in the definition of the breeding targets, the selection, evaluation and testing of potential new varieties as well as in the planning and organization of the seed production. In this case these farmers and their farmer organizations are not just the beneficiaries, but are recognized as equal partners who contribute traditional knowledge to complement the research process. This approach based on mutual learning results in heightened ownership and the strengthening of capacities of women and men farmers. Thus sustainable impacts are achieved through farmers’ commitment to adoption and dissemination of the new varieties. Such an optimized and systematic participation of future end-users in the research process appears to be increasingly important for successful research to solve the world’s food problems.
The scientific creativity and productivity of this couple has resulted in more than 60 publications in international respected, peer-reviewed journals and books. The recipients of this prize are also recognized for their extraordinary engagement and resilience despite the threats from civil unrest and disease epidemics in West Africa.
The independent council of the Foundation unanimously awarded this prize to the couple Weltzien-Rattunde for their outstanding achievements in the agricultural and nutritional sciences, which contribute to improving world nutrition. Their life’s work up to now has been in the service of a world free of hunger.