The World Food Prize Foundation

World Food Prize Foundation Pays Tribute to First African World Food Prize Laureate Minister Monty Jones


On behalf of the World Food Prize Laureates and our Council of Advisors, the World Food Prize Foundation extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Minister Monty Jones, 2004 Laureate, who passed away on April 28, 2024.

Mashal Husain, Chief Operating Officer, World Food Prize Foundation, said, “Minister Monty Jones dedicated his life to improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through agricultural science. His work on rice breeding alone helped millions of farmers and their families in feeding Africa. Africa and the world have lost a great leader in the global effort to end hunger in all its forms.”

Minister Jones was honored as the 2004 World Food Prize Laureate, alongside co-Laureate Yuan Longping, for leading the development of NERICA — “New Rice for Africa” — in the mid-1990s by crossbreeding high-producing Asian rice with African varieties that thrived in the region’s poor soils and drought conditions.

“As the first World Food Prize Laureate from Africa, Monty Jones paved the way for an array of scientists and policy leaders from that continent to be honored for their achievements,” said Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President Emeritus, World Food Prize Foundation.

Born in Sierra Leone, Monty Jones began his professional career in his home country with the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA), which is now the Africa Rice Center. Working closely with colleagues at WARDA, Dr. Jones succeeded where all others before him had failed. In an achievement unprecedented in the history of rice breeding, he broke through the genetic barrier and became the first person ever to combine Asian and African rice varieties to produce a stable and fertile rice line with higher yields, shorter growing cycles, and more protein than either of its parents. Key to this effort was his work in the genebanks at WARDA, which held seeds from over 1500 African rice varieties that faced extinction. In recapturing the genetic potential of ancient African rices which had grown on that continent for over 3,000 years, Dr. Jones developed a New Rice for Africa, uniquely suited to poor farmers.

With the ability to resist weeds, survive droughts and thrive on poor soils gained from its African parent, and the trait of higher productivity from its Asian ancestor, NERICA is a crop capable of increasing farmers’ harvests 50 to 250 percent, potentially benefiting 20 million poor farmers in West Africa alone. In producing a “New Rice” for Africa in Africa and by African researchers, Dr. Jones fulfilled a life-long dream and brought global recognition to the thousands of African scientists who work to uplift the farmers of the continent.

According to then-Director General of the Africa Rice Center Papa Abdoulaye Seck, “Dr. Monty Jones has demonstrated by his remarkable contribution that it is possible to reshape the agricultural map of our continent through the African creative genius.”

Dr. Jones became the founding Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), an umbrella organization forming a coalition of major stakeholders in agricultural research in Africa, from its inception in 2002. He also served as the Chairperson of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) from 2010 to 2013. In 2007, TIME Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential persons in the world. 

Upon completing his second term at FARA in 2013, Dr. Jones returned to Sierra Leone to serve as a Special Advisor to the President and Ambassador-at-large. In 2016, he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security for two years.

Throughout his career, Minister Jones was one of the strongest voices for Africa’s agricultural science for development. He leaves behind an incredible legacy of research, innovation and public policy that is an inspiration to all of Africa and the world.

The World Food Prize Foundation will honor Minister Jones during the annual Laureate Award Ceremony in October 2024. 

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