Each year, hundreds of the world’s top agricultural leaders, professionals and experts gather at the Iowa State Capitol to celebrate a distinguished individual as they receive the World Food Prize, known as the “Nobel Prize of food and agriculture.” This year, Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted of Trinidad and Tobago and Denmark was honored for her groundbreaking work in harnessing the use of aquaculture to fulfill the nutrition needs of rural communities, specifically women and children, in Asia and Africa.
"As a scientist, I feel this award is an important recognition of the essential but often overlooked role of fish and aquatic food systems in agricultural research for development,'' Thilsted said. “This award is a major acknowledgment of the urgent need to prioritize fish and aquatic foods in nutrition policies and program interventions at national and global levels.”
The 2021 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony occurred as part of the 2021 Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue: Gaining Momentum - Food Systems Transformation in the Decade of Action and featured remarks from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson and Thilsted.
Distinguished guests at the ceremony were United States Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack and Mexican Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula.
During her acceptance speech, Thilsted said, “My work is just the beginning for us to understand and make full use of the potential of diverse aquatic food to transform food, land, and water systems so that we can nourish all peoples and our planet. I call on young researchers and students … to be inspired by my work and take it to new heights.”
The Ceremony concluded with an uplifting performance from Kees Dieffenthaller, the lead singer of the Caribbean soca group KES from the Laureate’s home country of Trinidad and Tobago. KES has gained household recognition in the Caribbean for their unique blend of soulful vocals, calypso inspired melodies, rock riffs and island beats and their captivating, high energy performances. Following the ceremony, the celebration was carried into the Capitol Rotunda for the Laureate Award Ceremony Gala Reception.
Thilsted, the WorldFish Global Lead for Nutrition and Public Health, was the first to discover the high levels of essential micronutrients and fatty acids found in the small native fish species commonly found and consumed in Bangladesh. Her findings have now been amplified across numerous countries where millions of low-income families are farming and eating small fish to provide their children with the necessary nutrition to ensure a child’s prosperous first 1,000 days.