FOOD SECURITY AND FOOD ACCESS: SANT’ANNA SCHOOL LIFE SCIENCES INSTITUTE RESEARCHER WINS THE “BOLOGNA AWARD” FOR COMBINING GENOMICS WITH ETHIOPIAN FARMERS’ TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE

In recognition of his contribution to food security and inequality debate, Matteo dell’Acqua, one of the investigators on plant genome research program at Sant’Anna School Life Sciences Institute, and Ethiopian farmers from highland communities Melfa and Workaye, have just been jointly awarded the “Bologna Award”. Matteo dell’Acqua and the Ethiopian farmers who collaborated with the Italian researchers will receive a prize of 15,000 euros on Saturday, October 14, in celebration of the “World Food Day 2017”, organized in over 150 countries across the world on October 16.

The selection committee awarded Matteo dell’Acqua for his “exceptional research project” which was carried out with the support of Bologna University and Bioversity International. The scientists conducted research that demonstrated that indigenous knowledge measured in a quantitative way and used with advanced genomic and statistical methods may broaden our understanding for sustainable breeding efforts as a key to producing better crops. Researchers worked with 60 farmers from smallholder farming communities in Ethiopia highlands, evaluating 400 wheat varieties in two-week period and yielding over 190,000 data points. The analysis, inferred from molecular sequence data, was run for 30.000.000 generations. The collected information was coupled with metric measurements, breaking down farmers’ preferences for wheat phenotypes and identifying trait combinations contributing to farmer choice. A ranking identifying the best wheat varieties was produced upon trait values provided by farmers. The need to build smallholders’ resilience has been emphasized as key agents of change.

The “World Food Day” event promotes worldwide awareness to ensure food security and sustainable food systems. The second edition of the “Bologna Award” gathers experts and leaders representing community organizations, business and industry, state and local government, universities, and other groups that participate in projects for sustainable rural development.

The “2017 Bologna Award” received sponsorship by CAAB – Centro Agroalimentare di Bologna, Fondazione FICO, Comune di Bologna, Regione Emilia Romagna, Ministero dell’Ambiente and UNITEC. American writer and teacher Stephen Ritz, who created the “Green Bronx Machine to build healthy, equitable, and resilient communities through inspired education”; Michiel Bakker, director of Google Food Service; video artist Douglas Gayeton, who developed “The Lexicon of Sustainability”; journalist Licia Colò and the Linea Verde TV program newsroom staff, will be awarded for their contributions to debates focusing on food insecurity, social exclusion, and unequal access to opportunities.

Photo gallery: Matteo dell’Acqua at Sant’Anna School Life Sciences Institute.

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