Maria Isabel Andrade, a co-recipient of the 2016 World Food Prize, has 30 years of working experience in Africa. Her research interests include technology transfer, breeding seed systems and the amelioration of value chains for income-generation. Maria is highly skilled in training other breeders, facilitating knowledge sharing and constructing communications platforms to heighten the visibility and impact of sweetpotato in Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce Vitamin A deficiency and improve markets and crop production.
Maria, from Cape Verde, has spent the last 22 years working in Mozambique. The first 10 of these, she served as a regional cassava and sweetpotato agronomist for the Southern Africa Root Crop Research Network, a program run conjointly by the International Potato Center (CIP) and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA). From 2002-2006 she coordinated a five-year IITA/CIP project on Accelerated Multiplication and Distribution of Healthy Planting Materials of the Best High Yielding Varieties of Cassava and Sweetpotato. Over one million farmers received improved planting material under this project in 98 of the 141 districts of the country with Maria collaborating with 124 partners to achieve this objective.
In 2006, she joined CIP to manage the SASHA Southern Africa Sweetpotato Support Platform bringing together sweetpotato breeders from Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique and Angola, with a research emphasis on breeding drought-tolerant sweetpotato varieties. She has released 30 bio-fortified sweetpotato varieties of which 20 are drought tolerant. The Mozambican government recognizes bio-fortified sweetpotato as a food and nutrition security crop. These drought tolerant varieties have reached a million farmers who have adopted them and are making profits selling the roots and vines and processed products.
Over the last 15-20 years, crop research and the development of the seed systems as resulted in the increase of the yield, from about 5-6 tons per hectare in 2003 to almost 14 tons in 2016 (FAOSTAT, 2016) and 23% of all sweetpotato grown in Mozambique is bio-fortified.
In recognition of the significant contribution OFSP can make to food security and nutrition, Government of Mozambique has included Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) in their country investment plan. Also, In the nutrition sector, OFSP has been adopted as a mainstream technology for combating vitamin A deficiency by the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition in Mozambique (SETSAN) and in the country’s strategy in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement.
Maria also worked closely with other CGIAR scientists in the region to capitalize on potential synergies to be gained from joint planning. In the Platform for Innovation of Agriculture and technology transfer in Mozambique she represents all CGIARs members of this platform (8).
Today, Maria serves as CIP’s country manager in Mozambique, Sweetpotato breeder for Southern Africa & Asia, over and above her scientific leadership role. Maria served as the vice president for fund raising for the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) global for five years. She is also in the board of Directors of Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa and Member of External Panel review of Next Generation Cassava Breeding Project, project of Cornell & IITA.
Key recognitions for her sweetpotato breeding work include: Appreciation award from ISTRC-AB for her outstanding leadership & contribution on RTC in Africa, outstanding Alumnus award from NCSU, Wonder Women of Agriculture by U. S. Department in Agriculture March 2018, 2016 World Food Prize co-laureate and 2017 Swaminathan Award for Environmental Protection.