Source: World Food Prize Foundation news release

Wednesday at the World Food Prize international symposium, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), and the World Food Prize Foundation named four young entrepreneurs under age 40 as the recipients of $150,000 fellowships to launch innovative social enterprise projects addressing hunger and poverty in Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

The 40 Chances Fellows will be formally honored on Thursday, October 16, which is World Food Day, during the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium. The fellows will give a press conference about their projects today at 3:30 p.m. CDT in the Des Moines Room in the Des Moines Marriott Downtown.

The winners are:

Mr. Mahmud Johnson, Liberia: Mr. Johnson will use his 40 Chances award to establish Kernels for Peace (K4P), Liberia’s first fair trade palm kernel oil processing factory, which will help bridge the gap between Liberia’s wasted palm kernels (estimated at a value of $4 million) and the market demand for palm kernel oil. By purchasing palm kernels from smallholder oil palm producers, K4P will help increase their incomes by an average of 25-35%. Additionally, K4P will create an estimated 85 additional permanent, full-time jobs for rural women and youth, and will invest 50% of its profits into the community after the first two years of operation. “Solving problems is what drives me as a social entrepreneur. I am concerned primarily with creating opportunities for my fellow Liberians – especially the youth – that will allow them to live in dignity and economic freedom,” Mr. Johnson wrote in his application.

Ms. Bettie Kawonga, Malawi: Ms. Kawonga will use her 40 Chances award to establish a network of Community Business Incubation Centers, which will enable under-employed Malawian youth to become successful entrepreneurs in the Malawian dairy sector. The Community Business Incubation Centers will equip youth with leadership and technical skills in dairy husbandry and value addition, agribusiness management, loans and savings, and business proposal writing. Youth will be matched with business mentors and provided with start-up funds from an endowment to be created using a portion of the 40 Chances award money. “The project aims at tapping into the current ‘sleeping giant’ of Malawi – the youth – who make up over 60% of the Malawian population but most of whom are either not employed or are un-employable due to lack of technical skills.”

Ms. Lilian Uwintwali, Rwanda: Ms. Uwintwali will use her 40 Chances award to scale up her Agro-FIBA platform, which provides e-extension services, market information, and financing information to about 3,000 smallholder farmers through the internet and through text messages. “Our vision is to deliver a brighter and food secure future for Rwandans by bridging the gaps in agriculture and strengthening value chains through Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to ensure food security and improve farmers’ livelihoods in an effort to alleviate poverty,” Uwintwali said.

Mr. Emiliano Mroue, Sierra Leone: An Argentinian businessman and co-founder and General Manager of West Africa Rice Company (WARC), Mr. Mroue will use his 40 Chances award to introduce and pilot a soy-rice crop rotation system on 50 hectares of WARC’s land with the ultimate goal to improve soil fertility and generate scarce animal feed to foster protein consumption, which is amongst the lowest worldwide. “Our lives are geared towards achieving a significant transformative change and we see agriculture as a powerful tool for development,” he said.

“World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug’s two most ardent wishes were to promote development in Africa and to inspire the next generation,” said Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, President of The World Food Prize that Borlaug founded. “We, therefore, are tremendously excited to be part of this initiative to invest in market-based solutions to overcome the greatest challenges in hunger and poverty.”

Howard W. Buffett, trustee of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and co-author of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, added the following: “We are proud to partner with the World Food Prize Foundation and The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative in recognizing these four extraordinary people. Each of the 40 Chances Fellows is living proof that a single individual has the potential to change the world, and we anticipate that their work will serve as a model for others hoping to do the same.”

An extremely impressive array of leaders served as judges for this fellowship.

Liberia judges included:

• Dr. Florence Chenoweth – Minister of Agriculture of Liberia
• Amb. George Moose – Former US Undersecretary of State
• Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen – 2001 World Food Prize Laureate
• Dr. Richard Mkandawire – Vice President, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership
• Mr. Nick Thompson – Africa Governance Initiative

Malawi judges included:

• Dr. Pedro Sanchez – World Food Prize Laureate
• Dr. Ruth Oniang’o – Chair of the Board, Sasakawa Africa Association
• Dr. Daniel Karanja – Executive Director, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa
• Mr. David Strelneck – Senior Advisor, Ashoka
• Ms. Rachael Wilson – Staff member, World Food Programme Malawi

Rwanda judges included:

• H.E. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi – Former Prime Minister of Rwanda
• Amb. Johnnie Carson – Former US Ambassador to Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda
• Dr. Gebisa Ejeta – World Food Prize Laureate
• Ms. Mpule Kwelagobe – NGO leader, Former Miss Universe Botswana
• Ms. Christina PioCosta-Lahue – Africa Governance Initiative

Sierra Leone judges included:

• Dr. Monty Jones – 2004 World Food Prize Laureate, Special Advisor to the President
• Ms. Dinah Hanson – Director, Association of African Business Schools
• Mr. Thad Simons – Former CEO of NOVUS, Board Chairman of IFAMA
• Dr. Natalie Hahn – Former UNDP / UNICEF staff member in Africa
• Mr. Andrew Ratcliffe – Africa Governance Initiative
• Mr. Nick Thompson – Africa Governance Initiative