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The role of African scientists in feeding the continent

Prize lecture

Event video


18:30 - 19:30


Zoom webinar


Royal Society Africa Prize Lecture 2020 with Dr Steven Runo

Dr Steven Runo in a crop field with parasitic weed Striga. Image credits: Joel Masanga

A large number of Africans live in rural households and are dependent on small farms for food and other essential needs. Most of these farms (80%) are less than 2ha in size and therefore any further constraints, such as pests and diseases that reduce yields have immediate and far-reaching impact on the wellbeing of resource poor farmers. This situation is made worse by the well documented effects of climate change – such as prolonged drought, floods and increase in pest infestation.

It is therefore no surprise that whereas in most other parts of the world hunger and malnutrition has been on the decline, in Africa it has been on the rise exposing millions to starvation and undernourishment.

Alleviating hunger from Africa will require concerted efforts that greatly harness science, technology, and innovation. However, despite great technological advancement in science technology and innovation elsewhere, most of sub-Saharan Africa still lags behind. Therefore, to fully harness science, technology and innovation, strategic alliances that leverage scientific advancement in other African countries and beyond are critical. Such alliances will expand our capacity to translate upstream science into applications that appropriately meet the needs of small holder farmers. Gradually, this will build capacity in a critical number of African scientists that can then develop homegrown innovations to improve food production.

In this lecture, Dr Runo shared his experiences on the gains his group have made towards managing one of the most noxious parasites of African agriculture – the parasitic weed Striga – as well as his vision for a food secure Africa bolstered by scientific innovations. 

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The award

The Royal Society Africa Prize is to recognise research scientists based in Africa who are making an innovative contribution to the sciences. Winners will receive a grant of £15,000 to support their research. The medal is of bronze, awarded annually and is accompanied by a gift of £2,000.

The Royal Society Africa Prize 2020 is awarded to Dr Steven Runo for elucidating pathways for long distance RNA trafficking between parasitic plants and their hosts and identifying and developing transgenic protocol for characterizing and validating candidate host and parasite genes.

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The role of African scientists in feeding the continent

Royal Society Africa Prize Lecture 2020 with Dr Steven Runo.

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