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Dr. Monty Jones

Last Updated: 5/7/2007 9:50:55 AM

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Dr. Monty Jones is the First Executive Secretary, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). He became the first African to win the World Food Prize in 2004.......


Dr. Monty Jones
Dr. Monty Jones

Dr. Monty Jones was born in 1951 in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown and raised in a strict middle-class catholic family. The Irish fathers who ran Dr. Jones school had hoped to persuade him to join the priesthood, however the young Dr. Jones felt he had a mission elsewhere. Growing up in Freetown gave Dr. Jones very little exposure to agriculture, but he still dreamed of helping to produce food that would feed the world.

He was admitted into then Njala University College, University of Sierra Leone where he attained a B.Sc in Agricultural General in 1974, he later went on to receive an M.Sc. in Plant Genetic Resources (1979) and a Ph.D. in Plant Biology (1983) from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Jones had started his career in the 1975 at the West Africa Rice Development Agency (WARDA) in its Mangrove Swamp Rice Research Project in Rokupr, Sierra Leone. It was while he was at Rokpur that Dr. Jones first came across Oryza glaberrima, an indigenous African rice species. He was struck by the fact that farmers in difficult environments continued to grow the species in preference to the higher-yielding Oryza sativa varieties, native to Asia, that were also available.

Clearly O. glaberrima was better adapted to local environmental stresses, but was what if the Asian variety with its high yields could be adapted to the African environment?

In the early 1991 Dr. Jones moved to the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) main research centre and headquarters at Mbe near Bouake in Cote d'Ivoire. He took up the post of Upland Rice Breeder and here he was able realise his long cherished dream of crossing the Asian and African rice species. Crossing different species is very challenging as the offspring runs a high risk of sterility. Dr. Jones and his team were able to successfully achieve this and produce high yield, yet durable, NERICA - New Rice for Africa - variety.

This was a major breakthrough and in 2004 he was honoured for his work by being awarded the World Food Prize. Dr. Jones oversaw breeding programs for the NERICA species and programs have been successfully started across West Africa. In Nigeria, NERICA has resulted in over 30 percent expansion in upland rice cultivation. Guinea’s rice imports reduced by 50 percent in three years, and the country became a net exporter of the grain in 2005.

In 2002, Dr. Jones was appointed the executive secretary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, based in Ghana. At FARA, he oversees advocacy and coordination efforts in support of regional research, with the goal of increasing agricultural growth by at least 6 percent annually by 2020 as well as fostering ongoing economic growth, alleviating poverty, and improving food security for Africa’s people.



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