Our Work

BIFAD Award for Scientific Excellence: Award Winners

Senior Research Team Award
Yihun Dile, Assistant Research Scientist, Texas A&M University
Abeyou Worqlul, Assistant Research Scientist, Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Jean-Claude Bizimana, Associate Research Scientist, Texas A&M University

The 2019 Award for Senior Researcher or Research Team is being given to the team of Drs. Yihun Dile, Abeyou Worqlul, and Jean-Claude Bizimana for their work on the Integrated Decision Support System (IDSS) in the USAID Feed the Future Laboratory for Small Scale Irrigation (ILSSI) at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. The ILSSI conducts research in farmer fields, implements household surveys, and developed and employed an integrated analytic methodology enabling assessment of the production, environmental, economic, and nutritional consequences of the introduction of multiple small-scale irrigation systems in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Through the Integrated Decision Support System, the ILSSI has helped demonstrate sustainable levels of water and land uses for small-scale irrigation and built strong ties with partners in their operating countries to further human and institutional capacity development in the operation of small-scale irrigation projects.

Farmer-led and -implemented irrigation has proven to be an effective way to lift farm productivity and household income. ILSSI’s impact includes: increased adoption of small-scale irrigation (SSI) methods among farmers and farm organizations; the use of analytic methods monitoring government programs introducing SSI; increased income and enhanced nutritional status of households using SSI; and continued use of ILSSI’s guidance documents, tools, and materials across the African continent.

Dr. Yihun Dile received his Ph.D. in Natural Resource Management from Stockholm University. He provides training on the use and application of the IDSS to technical experts, policy level decision-makers, and graduate students. Dr. Abeyou Worqlul received his Ph.D. in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University. He contributes to the development and application of the IDSS framework and leading the first of its kind irrigation suitability study in Ethiopia and Ghana. Dr. Jean-Claude Bizimana received his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University. He conducts farm-level analysis to evaluate economic and nutritional impacts of small-scale irrigation technologies on family farms.

Student Researcher Award
Jean Baptiste Ndahetuye, PhD Candidate, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Lecturer, Veterinary Medicine, University of Rwanda

Jean Baptiste Ndahetuye is winner of the Student Researcher Award. Mr. Ndahetuye is a lecturer at the University of Rwanda and is completing a doctoral degree from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Mr. Ndahetuye is being recognized for his work studying “milk production practices, udder health and their impact on milk quality, safety, and processability in Rwanda,” which was supported through funding from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Since 2006, the Rwandan government has provided one dairy animal to impoverished families in a nationwide effort to combat malnutrition through the consumption of milk and other dairy products. Even with this important program, however, milk production in Rwanda is often hampered by the widespread prevalence of mastitis – a disease that not only severely limits milk production, but also presents a food safety risk to consumers. Studying 400 farms across the country, Mr. Ndahetuye found that 62 percent of the cows he sampled suffered from the disease. His findings have informed the development of training materials for farmers, milk middlemen, paraveterinarians and opinion leaders in the communities. The information is also informing the national mastitis control program as well as allowing milk collection centers to provide feedback to their members on the quality of milk received and marketed.

Senior Research Team Award
Hillary Egna, Director, Aquafish Innovation Lab, Oregon State University
Dr. David Bengtson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Rhode Island;
Dr. Remedios Bolivar, Professor at Central Luzon State University, Philippines;
Dr. Russell Borski, Professor at North Carolina State University;
Dr. Charles Ngugi, Courtesy Professor at Kenyatta University, Kenya;
Dr. Tran Thi Thanh Hien, Associate Professor at Can Tho University, Vietnam;
Dr. Md. Abdul Wahab, Professor, Bangladesh Agricultural University.

The senior researcher award was given to Dr. Hillary Egna and her research team from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Aquaculture & Fisheries, led by Oregon State University. This team includes six other prominent scientists from the U.S., Vietnam, Kenya, the Philippines,  and Bangladesh.

The award recognizes the team for its work to address the critical production constraint of feed costs in aquaculture enterprises. The AquaFish Innovation Lab team has focused on finding low-cost alternatives to fishmeal as a protein source in aquaculture diets for both small-scale and medium-scale farmers.

Significant impacts of the AquaFish Team’s research include adoption of alternative-protein formulation of snakehead fish feed by 90 % of the commercial feed mills in the Mekong Delta and contributing to the lifting of a longstanding ban on snakehead production in Cambodia, imposed because snakehead farming caused illegal fishing. In Thailand, the Philippines, and Bangladesh, Innovation Lab results contributed to the adoption of alternate-day feeding strategies for tilapia-carp polyculture production, increasing farmer profits by as much as 200% by feeding half the standard ration.

Student Researcher Award
Mohammad Mokhlesure Rahman, PhD Candidate, Kansas State University

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) has selected Mr. Mohammad Mokhlesur Rahman (left), a PhD candidate in genetics at Kansas State University, as the winner of the 2018 BIFAD Student Award for Scientific Excellence in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab.  The award recognizes Mr. Rahman for his pivotal role in establishing Bangladesh’s largest wheat testing nursery, where over 1,800 candidate lines have been tested. This has helped identify promising heat-tolerant varieties for the country’s wheat farmers.

Mr. Rahman is currently a fellow with the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) Program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and administered by Michigan State University.  He is completing his doctoral research in affiliation with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics at Kansas State University, also funded by USAID.   

Mr. Rahman grew up in a farming community, spending many of his childhood days helping to cultivate  rice, jute, wheat, vegetables, pulse, and oil crops on his family’s five acres of land. He attended Bangladesh Agricultural University, completing his B.Sc. Agriculture in 2004 and M.Sc. in Genetics and Plant Breeding in 2006. After graduation, he joined the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) as a Scientific Officer in wheat breeding, and he contributed to the development and release of four improved wheat varieties in Bangladesh—BARI Gom 25, BARI Gom 26, BARI Gom 27, and BARI Gom 28. These are all high yielding with different types of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance/resistance. The BARI Go 26 and BARI Gom 27 are Ug-99 stem rust resistant wheat varieties and BARI Gom 28 is the highest yielder among the group. In 2014, Mr. Rahman received a BHEARD fellowship as part of efforts by USAID to build scientific research capacity at BARI.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Jesse Poland, Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics, Mr. Rahman was instrumental in helping the program expand wheat trial testing locations to his home country. Mr. Rahman has been responsible for establishing, implementing, and evaluating field trials for the new wheat testing nursery over the last four years.  He has led implementation of electronic data capture and high-throughput phenotyping approaches that are modernizing breeding technologies in Bangladesh.

Mr. Rahman’s  experiences, opportunities, and networks gained through the BHEARD program and the Applied Wheat Genomics Innovation Lab have given him a solid foundation for a successful career of service to wheat farmers in Bangladesh and the global agricultural community.

Senior Researcher Award
Dr. James Beaver, University of Puerto Rico
Dr. Juan Carlos Rosas, Zamorano Panamerican Agricultural University, Honduras

Dr.  James Beaver , of the University of Puerto Rico, and Dr. Juan Carlos Rosas (left), of the Zamorano Panamerican Agricultural University in Honduras, were selected as winners of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) Award for their contributions to breeding diseaseresistant and drought/heat-tolerant varieties of common bean of diverse market classes under the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes, led by Michigan State University.  The team is responsible for the breeding and release of more than 60 cultivars with increased yield, quality, and stability throughout Central America and the Caribbean.  They developed more than 23 bean lines and germplasm resistant to Bean Golden Yellow Mosaic Virus, Bean Common Mosaic Virus, and Bean Common Mosaic Necrosis Virus—three highly destructive bean diseases that affect vulnerable, smallholder farmers throughout Central America.  Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab Bean breeders Juan Carlos Rosas (l.) and James Beaver (rt.) examine a test field of improved bean lines.

Drs. Beaver and Rosas are also recognized for combining other important traits into the virus-resistant bean cultivars, including resistance traits to fungal diseases, such as web blight and angular leaf spot, and to bean weevil, a serious postharvest grain pest during household storage, plus higher symbiotic nitrogen fixation capacity. Additional research achievements have been genetic improvements in heat and drought tolerance in common bean, which has enabled production in the lowland tropics. This work has been augmented by recent support from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate-Resilient Beans, led by the Pennsylvania State University. Their research collaboration spans more than 30 years and has contributed directly to improved incomes and increased food security among smallholder farmers in a neglected region of the world. Drs. Beaver and Rosas have provided innovative leadership in developing and promoting local seed multiplication systems to ensure that smallholders have access to quality bean seed of improved varieties.  Using participatory plant breeding approaches, they include smallholder farmers’ input in making varietal selections—an approach now used worldwide.  Always focused on the future of bean research, Beaver and Rosas are committed teachers and have trained and mentored a large cadre of students who are now working in leadership positions at universities, national/international agricultural research organizations and the private sector around the world.

Student Researcher Award
Laouali Amadou, PhD Candidate, University of Maradi, Niger; Junior Scientist, National Institute of Agricultural Research of Niger (INRAN)

Mr. Laouali Amadou is the graduate student winner of the BIFAD Award for Scientific Excellence in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab. He is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maradi in Niger and is also a junior scientist at the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Niger (INRAN).  Mr.  Amadou works with the USAID Feed the Future Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab. He has worked with a consortium of scientists from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal on the biological control of the millet head miner, H. albipunctella. This insect is the most important pest of pearl millet in that region and can lead to up to 85% reduction of crop yield. The focus of Mr. Amadou’s work has been to develop scale-up culture procedures for beneficial insects that can be released to help control the millet head miner. The economic benefits of this approach were estimated to be over $200 million annually.  The growth and release of the beneficial biocontrol insects will help facilitate the establishment of a ‘cottage industry’ to prevent and/or limit damage of the millet head miner. Mr. Amadou and his colleagues have conducted a preliminary study to determine the economic viability of this approach in conjunction with a regional farm organization in Niger and found the approach to be economically viable. 

Senior Researcher Award
Michael Carter, Director, Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access, UC Davis
Christopher Barrett, Cornell University
Andrew Mude, International Livestock Research Institute

This year’s winners were nominated due to their groundbreaking research on chronic poverty—its causes and solutions. This group of researchers not only changed the conversation about the nature of chronic poverty, but also pioneered solutions to solving this vexing problem.

The approach developed by this team is based on two important understandings. First, poverty dynamics and chronic poverty are best studied through the analysis of assets – the resources people use to produce a livelihood – rather than simply through analysis of income or other livelihood outcomes. Second, there may be a critical minimum asset threshold, below which individuals become mired in chronic poverty.

From a policy perspective, knowledge of the existence and location of such critical asset thresholds is vital. It can be used to identify those households where risk has its most deleterious consequences, and provides target for asset-building programs that aim to achieve sustainable poverty reduction.

The flagship project of this group has been the Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI) project in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia. Not only did this group design, ground truth and implement a social safety net based on satellite images, they also maintained a sophisticated research program the demonstrated the impact of this program on food security and has continued to search for ways to improve the impacts and cost-effectiveness of the program. Building on the work of this group, the Government of Kenya recently launched the Hunger Safety Net Program (HNSP-2) and Kenya Livestock Insurance Program (KLIP) programs in an effort to redress chronic poverty in the arid and semi-arid reaches of that country.

At a separate event in Des Moines, Andrew Mude will be awarded the prestigious 2016 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, which honors this same research on chronic poverty through the innovative use of satellite tech and community outreach to develop livestock insurance for vulnerable herding communities in Horn of Africa.

Student Researcher Award
Daljit Singh, PhD Candidate, Kansas State University

Kansas State University’s Daljit Singh is the graduate student recipient of the Award for Scientific Excellence in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab from the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development.

Singh is a doctoral student in genetics at the university’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics. The lab’s mission is to develop heat-tolerant, high-yielding and farmer-accepted varieties for South Asia, while simultaneously increasing the research for development capacity of the global wheat improvement system.

Singh was nominated for the award by Jesse Poland, an assistant professor of plant pathology and the director of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics. Poland said that Singh is leading the lab’s effort to implement unmanned aerial vehicles for rapid assessment of wheat breeding nurseries. He said the work is at the cutting-edge in the discipline, while being directly applied to accelerating wheat breeding for improved production in the developing world.

Originally from a farming family in India, Singh said he understands well the progress that agricultural technologies provide to families in developing countries. Singh’s work at Kansas State University includes implementing the first-ever use of unmanned aerial vehicle data collection in India for the purpose of integrated high-throughput phenotyping into wheat breeding and breeding methodology.