“Being a plant breeder is not a job, it’s a mission in life. The leading actor of this award is cassava, for it’s a fascinating crop.” – Dr. Hernán Ceballos.

Dr. Hernán Ceballos, a plant breeder at CIAT’s Cassava Program, and Alfred Dixon, IITA Director of the Development and Delivery Office, received the Golden Cassava Prize at the triennial Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) held in Benin from 11 to 15 June. The prize is awarded in recognition of their long scientific career and contributions to improving the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.

The Golden Cassava Prize was created in 2008 for the first GCP21 Conference, held in Ghent. The global cassava community, every three years, awards the prize to one or two people who have been exceptionally active in the cassava sector.

In 2016, the prize went to Dr. Reinhardt Howeler, CIAT emeritus scientist, and Dr. Chareinsuk Rojanaridpiched, professor at Kasetsart University in Thailand. Dr. Howeler worked as an agronomist at CIAT for over 30 years and trained thousands of farmers in good agricultural practices.

“This year, CIAT receives for the second time the Golden Cassava Prize, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the scientists who influenced my professional and personal development, such as Reinhardt Howeler, Anthony C. Bellotti, and Clair Hershey. I recall Tony Bellotti advising me that in order to listen what cassava had to tell me, it was necessary to spend many hours in the field. This prize is, in fact, a recognition to the cassava breeding team: Fernando Calle, Teresa Sánchez, Nelson Morante, Jorge Iván Lenis, Sandra Salazar, and John Belalcázar; as well as to my colleagues Elizabeth Álvarez, Dominique Dufour (CIRAD-France), and the African colleagues with whom we have always worked as a team,” said Ceballos.

Ceballos added that he is also grateful to his wife Zaida Lentini and children for being there all along the way and encouraging him throughout the fascinating experience of working in cassava, which culminates with such an important award.

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