Nigel Taylor, Ph.D.

For small holder farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa, food security is affected by drought, crop diseases, poor soils and access
to modern technology.  We need to secure people’s access to food
in a sustainable way so they can develop economically.

Golden Cassava Award Presented at International Scientific Conference

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Kampala, Uganda, June 20, 2012—The Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) convened its second scientific conference on June 18 at the Speke Resort Conference Centre in Kampala, Uganda with an impressive opening ceremony featuring the Honorable  Minister of Agriculture followed by a full day of presentations by highly regarded plenary speakers.   At the end of the afternoon, attendees gathered in the garden on the shore of Lake Victoria to present the 2012 Golden Cassava Award to Dr. Michael Thresh in recognition of his longstanding scientific contributions to understanding and building awareness of cassava diseases.

Patrick Onen Ezaga served as emcee of the lively event which featured entertainment by the Crane Performers, a talented team of musicians and dancers who performed a variety of traditional songs and dances from the various regions of Uganda.  The award ceremony was led by GCP21 co-chairs Dr. Claude Fauquet, Dr. Joe Tohme and Dr. Yona Baguma, Chairman of GCP21 II.  Following brief remarks highlighting Dr. Thresh’s commitment to the important food security crop, he was presented with a plaque and a Kanzu, a bark cloth hat and a walking stick wrapped in the traditional wear of Uganda.  Thresh accepted the award graciously dedicating it to “those who came before me and lead the effort to build awareness of the importance of boosting cassava production in Uganda as well as other countries in East and West Africa.”

Dr. Thresh is Professor of Plant Virus Ecology at University of Greenwich.  He is from a farming background in north of England and received his first degree in Botany in 1952 from Imperial College, London and his PhD from the University of London in 1967. In 1952 he became a Colonial Research Scholar and spent a year training in Plant Virology at Rothamsted Experimental.  From 1953-1960 Thresh worked as a Virologist at the West African Cocoa Research Institute, in Gold Coast (now Ghana) and Nigeria. This was his first contact with cassava as important food crop and with tree cassava as temporary shade for cacao.

From 1960-1986 Thresh worked as a Virologist at East Malling Research Station, UK and focused on epidemiology and control of viruses of fruit plants and hop. During this time he undertook consultancies abroad including 1971 visits to the Bock/Guthrie ODA project in Kenya and to Ethiopia for FAO. During this period he received ODA funding for collaboration with CRIG staff on analysis of field data on epidemiology of CSSV. In 1978 Thresh founded the Plant Virus Epidemiology Committee of International Society for Plant Pathology and continues to be a member today.   From 1986-1991 he joined ODA Corps of Specialists for collaboration with overseas staff on virus diseases of tropical food crops. 

Thresh served as President British Society for Plant Pathology from 1990 – 91 and in 1991 was appointed Senior Virologist at what became Natural Resources Institute and later part of University Greenwich where he served until 1996.   At Greenwich, he worked to develop the ODA virus research programme with emphasis on Rice tungro/Cassava mosaic/Maize streak/Banana bunchy top. In 1990 he  established an NRI link with William Otim-Nape and Cassava Programme in Uganda soon after the start of the CMD epidemic there in 1988. This collaboration continued until Thresh “retired” in 2004. During this period at least two visits a year to Uganda and to other cassava-producing countries including Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi. Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon. These visits led to discovery of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD)  in Mozambique and re-discovery in Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi. In 1998 Thresh was appointed Professor of Plant Virus Ecology at University of Greenwich.  In 2005 he was named an Honorary Member of the British Society for Plant Pathology.  Thresh continues to be involved in the development of cassava through attendance at the CBSD meeting in Uganda and as member of the Gates GLCI project Technical Advisory Committee.

GCP21 consists of 45 member institutions working on research and development of cassava, a staple crop relied on by more than 700 million people worldwide.  The ultimate goal of the partnership is to improve cassava productivity through scientific research and development.  The Partnership serves as an advocate for cassava issues and leverages research and development by facilitating dialogue among farmers, stakeholders, producers, researchers and donor agencies via scientific and technical meetings, collectively seeking smart strategies, funding opportunities, and catalyzing solutions to technical challenges such as cassava genomics.

Since it was founded in 2003, GCP21 has developed a list of technologies and research themes to focus activities and promote investment in those priority areas. In the last year, several research projects totaling more than $60 million in grants in the areas of cassava genomics, genetic engineering, biofortification, genetics and biology have been initiated and will be reported on during the five day conference in Kampala.


Local organizing committee:
Yona Baguma, Scientist at NaCRRI, Chairman of GCP21-II
Richard Okuti, Coordinator (ASILI)
Emily Twinamasiko, Director General of NARO
Robert Anguzu, Communication of NARO
James A. Ogwang Director of NaCRRI
Anton Bua, Team Leader of National Cassava Program, NaCRRI
Settumba Mukasa, Senior Lecturer, Makerere University
Ali Kabogoza, Senior Administrator of NaCRRI
Christopher Omongo, Scientist at NaCRRI
Titus Alicai, Scientist at NaCRRI
Robert Kawuki, Scientist at NaCRRI
Hellen Apio, Research Assistant at NaCRRI
Emmanuel Ogwok, Research Assistant at NaCRRI

International Committee:
Claude Fauquet, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDPSC)
Joe Tohme, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Paul Anderson, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Alfred Dixon, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI)
Morag Ferguson, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Wilhelm Gruissem,  ETH-Zurich
Peter Kulakow, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Marc Van Montagu, Director of IPBO
Luciano L. Nass, Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA)
Steve Rounsley, Dow AgroSciences
Nteranya Sanginga,  International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Motoaki Seki, RIKEN Yokohama Institute
Nigel Taylor, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Eugene Terry, Private Consultant
Gary Toenniessen, the Rockefeller Foundation
Wenquan Wang, Director of CATAS
Andrew Westby, Director of NRI

Event Sponsors:
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
USAID from the American People
Monsanto Co.
Syngenta Foundation
Generation Challenge Programme
AWARD: African Women in Agricultural Research and Development
SLU-Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Corn Products International
Government of Uganda
National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)

About Cassava
Cassava is cultivated mainly by hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers, often on marginal lands and is vital for both food security and income generation.  In Asia and Latin America, cassava serves as livestock feed, an industrial input, and a source of fuel and food. In Africa, it is the second most important source of calories after maize, an inexpensive and essential food for the poor, and an emerging cash crop.  Tapioca, yucca, and manioc are other names for cassava.  Although Cassava has many properties that make it an important food across 105 countries in the world, it also has many limitations.  Cassava lacks essential vitamins and nutrients and is susceptible to many pathogens, particularly in Africa, where one third of the continental harvest is lost each year to viral diseases.

The Global Cassava Partnership (GCP21)
Founded in 2003, GCP21 is an alliance of 45 organizations from the global cassava research and development community that are working under the umbrella of the Global Cassava Development Strategy of IFAD/FAO to raise awareness of the importance of the crop in the developing world and to identify the major constraints to improving the productivity potential of cassava to benefit millions of people in the world.  Cassava R&D has received support from the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID from the American people, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Monsanto Fund, SNP, U.S. Department of Energy and the Roche Company.


For additional information, contact:
Karla Roeber, (314) 587-1231
Melanie Bernds, (314) 587-1647

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