Announcing the Innovation Award winners

Celebrating innovative success stories in sustainable agriculture

IMAFLORA’s Origens Brasil platform, one of the winning projects of the International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, connects buyers with indigenous producers in Amazonia. ©Rogério Assis.


In November 2018, FAO and the Government of Switzerland announced a new prize meant to recognize the centrality of innovation in a #ZeroHunger world: the International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food and Agriculture.

Any individual or group could nominate an innovation, which would be evaluated based on its quality, merit, sustainability, scalability, value and impact. Candidates were expected to demonstrate how their innovation could improve food security and nutrition for all, particularly in the face of increased environmental challenges.

Prizes were to be awarded in two categories. In Category A, USD 40 000 would be awarded to an innovation that strengthened links between farmers and consumers by targeting multiple levels of a supply chain. Category B would award USD 20,000 to an innovation that expanded the role of youth in agriculture and food systems. Now, the winners have been decided.

Left: A selection of products available through the Origens Brasil platform. ©Luiz Cunha. Right: Practical Action’s sandbar cropping technique has enabled farmers to use thousands of hectares of previously barren land. ©Nazmul Islam Chowdhury

Category A co-winner: Value chain system, IMAFLORA

Launched in 2016 by the Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agrícola (IMAFLORA), Origens Brasil is a brand and digital platform that links buyers with indigenous producers in Amazonia. Products are registered on a digital platform and given a QR code that allows buyers and consumers to track its origin and history, thus increasing transparency and minimizing the need for intermediaries. With more than 1 500 producers, 14 companies and 40 local organizations, Origens Brasil is a sustainable practice that fosters the protection of natural resources in the Amazon and values the participation of women and youth.

IMAFLORA plans to use the prize money to implement the Origens Brasil business plan and expand to other territories.

Category A co-winner: Sandbar cropping, Practical Action

Practical Action is recognized for developing an innovative approach to empowering landless and marginalized farmers in Bangladesh through sandbar cropping and connections to both domestic and export markets. Sandbar cropping involves sowing sacks of compost in otherwise-barren riverbeds, and then growing crops (especially pumpkins) in them. Since its inception in 2005, the innovation has reached over 20 000 households – who have used more than 4 000 hectares to grow over 100 000 tonnes of pumpkin valued at GBP 15 million. In addition to improving livelihoods, this innovation has also targeted women and enabled smallholders to preserve water through improved irrigation techniques.

Practical Action plans to use the prize money to develop material for university curricula so that agriculture students can learn about this new technology, diversify the programme’s crops and attract donors to replicate the program elsewhere in South Asia.

The agribusiness incubator IITA Youth Agripreneur is providing young people with training and capital to start successful rural and urban businesses. ©Evelyn O. Ohanwusi

Category B winner: Agribusiness incubation, IITA

Since 2012, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has hosted IITA Youth Agripreneurs, an agribusiness incubation programme for youth. The project connects trained agripreneurs to start-up capital and provides them with training on a range of skills to help them establish successful rural or urban businesses. It also uses revolving funds to ensure that these opportunities continue to be available for young people. The project now boasts 385 members operating 36 learning-by-doing enterprises in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania.

IITA plans to use the prize money to expand the programme to Benin.

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2. Zero hunger, 9. Industry innovation and infrastructure