Apr 11, 2023
One Planet Laureate Candidate wins the prestigious 2023 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Cash Prize

A 2020 One Planet Laureate Candidate, Dr Laura Estelle Loko Yeyinou, has been named among the seven recipients of the highly competitive 2023 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards. Laura was recognized and rewarded for her efforts toward combating food security through her research on developing and implementing innovative and ecological practices for integrated crop pest management.

Climate change is intensifying an already worse food insecurity situation, with the 2023 Global Report on Food Crises recording that economic shocks and the Ukraine war in 2022 increased the number of people facing acute hunger to more than 250 million people. Across sub-Saharan Africa, farmers are experiencing poor harvests due to prolonged droughts and floods, causing significant disruption in the food system that is compounded by the rising cost of living and economic crisis.

Although food insecurity and climate change are global challenges, they manifest most acutely in local contexts. For instance, Benin’s Ministry of Agriculture reports that 26% of households are food insecure, of which 1.9% are severely insecure. The decrease in the yield of major staple food crops, yam, maize, sorghum, rice and beans, mirrors this. The data tells the story of pressing needs and, perhaps, even more, the urgency for targeted and sustainable solutions to address these issues, enhance livelihoods, and create an enabling environment for farmers to prosper.

This bleak situation has driven Laura to prioritize research that responds to the needs of small-scale farmers in Benin. Her research focuses on identifying pest control methods that respect human health and the environment. She asserts that numerous crop varieties, particularly those produced by smallholder farmers, are often neglected despite offering greater resilience to climate change and better food security.

Laura has conducted pioneering research on yam production that has had a lasting effect on the community and beyond. One of her significant achievements was leading a study on White Guinea yam that identified for the first-time basic breeding standards that, if applied by breeders, could enhance the uptake of improved White Guinea yam varieties by farmers and consumers in Benin. The study also identified 44 popular white Guinea yam landraces with high nutritional and market values, potentially increasing farmers’ yields. Additionally, Laura spearheaded a survey of pest management for stored yam chips to minimize post-harvest loss.

“To meet future demands for farmers and to ensure food security in Benin, there is a need to develop and release improved yam varieties for farmers,” says Laura.

Laura was also at the helm of a study on the characterization of rice farming systems, production constraints and adoption of improved varieties by smallholder farmers. She points out that the demand for rice among the population of Benin exceeds its local production, which results in significant reliance on rice imports. As such, the study identifies potential technological and policy interventions that can enhance rice production and support farmers’ livelihoods.

Laura is resolute in pursuing research that connects climate change with food security. Given the present global trends, she underscores that it is impossible to address food security effectively without concurrently addressing climate change. Consequently, she is optimistic about the prospects of the award in enabling her to contribute significantly to tackling these critical issues.

“This prize represents a scientific acknowledgement that elevates my profile and creates an ideal environment for me to develop eco-friendly approaches for controlling crop pests and inspire other young women scientists to bolster food security in Africa,” she emphasizes.

Laura is one of the many research scientists competitively selected to participate in the AWARD Fellowships dedicated to improving the experiences of African women in agricultural research over the past decade. AWARD has achieved this goal by implementing deliberate capacity-building interventions and advocating for climate change action and food security in the continent, specifically through the One Planet Fellowship. As one of the One Planet Laureate Candidates, Laura has received direct support from AWARD, enabling them to significantly contribute to reducing poverty and enhancing food security in sub-Saharan Africa by addressing climate change issues. Since 2019, AWARD has supported 130 African scientists in developing solutions for African smallholders to cope with the changing climate across the continent.


African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). Hosted by World Agroforestry Centre, United Nations Avenue, Gigiri. P.O Box 30677-00100 Nairobi, Kenya.

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