The inaugural 2013 World Agriculture Prize was awarded to Professor Dr. Ronnie Coffman, an international plant breeder at Cornell University, in recognition of his remarkable success in promoting global collaborative partnerships and building leadership capacity in men and women interested in crop improvement.

The GCHERA World Agricultural Prize recognises the contribution of a faculty staff member from an agricultural and life science university who has significantly contributed to the mission of the university through education, research and knowledge transfer for the benefit of society.

Coffman has served on the faculty of Cornell University since 1981 and is director of International Programs in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS).

He is well regarded internationally for his early work developing new varieties of rice in Southeast Asia, recent efforts combatting diseases of wheat as director of the global Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project, and his ability in mentoring future generations of plant breeders and international development professionals.

Professor Zhou Guanghong, the President of NAU, welcomed Ronnie Coffman to the award ceremony and Philippe Choquet announced him as the World Food Prize Laureate 2013 on October 20 during GCHERA’s annual meeting, which also celebrated the 111th anniversary of NAU.  This annual award is being given for the first time in 2013.

“For more than 40 years, Dr Ronnie Coffman has played an international role in academic circles providing for safe and secure food, and the use of renewable resources,” said Ian Maw, Vice-Chair of GCHERA. “The World Agriculture Prize recognizes his significant contribution to our universities’ mission of education, research and knowledge transfer for the benefit of society.”

Believing it is “vitally important to fund universities of agriculture and life sciences,” in his acceptance speech, Coffman said, “The world’s farmers need access to the best science that the many great institutions of GCHERA can deliver in order to produce crops that are nutritionally adequate and best adapted to future challenges.”

Coffman said new technologies — including biotechnologies — must be made accessible to all the world’s farmers so that nutritionally superior seeds that are well-adapted to climate change are put in the hands of farmers with limited resources.

Also believing that women are underserved in science and technology education in the fight against hunger, Coffman said he will donate the $50,000 (USD) World Agriculture Prize to AWARE, a new initiative at Cornell that makes strategic interventions to improve women’s lives and funds advancement opportunities for young women in agriculture.

“AWARE, which stands for Advancing Women in Agriculture Through Research and Education, focuses on women in agriculture as an underserved group because women hold the greatest potential to make significant impacts in rural development,” said Coffman. “Colleges of agriculture and life science need to empower women as future champions around the globe so they can become the entrepreneurs of their own future as well as the planet’s.”

“Ronnie Coffman embodies the college’s mission of ‘Knowledge with public purpose,’” said Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), who nominated him for the award. “He has spent his career ensuring that people with scarce resources in some of the world’s most populous countries have access to the agricultural science they need to produce crops best adapted to the challenges they face. He excels as an agent of change.”

The Award Ceremony was followed by the 2013 GCHERA International Seminar and World Dialogue on Education and Innovation in Agriculture and Life Sciences, “Universities as Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Rural Development,” October 20-21.

RELATED LINKS:

Ronnie Coffman: http://bit.ly/19EJybG

IP-CALS: http://ip.cals.cornell.edu

AWARE: http://ip.cals.cornell.edu/AWARE/