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The Rockefeller Foundation Announces Semi-Finalists for the $1 Million Cassava Innovation Challenge

The Challenge attracted overwhelming interest from more than 600 organizations in over 30 countries.


NEW YORK— A global panel of judges announced the list of organizations with promising, innovative solutions that have made it through the first round of The Rockefeller Foundation Cassava Innovation Challenge. Fifty organizations will proceed in the Challenge, which will award up to $1 million in grants to those with the best ideas for extending the shelf life of cassava.

Launched at the World Economic Forum on Africa in May as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise Initiative, the Cassava Innovation Challenge has a simple, but bold goal: identify solutions to reduce spoilage of cassava, a staple crop in Asia and Latin America and the main source of nutrition for more than 500 million Africans.

The Challenge attracted a diverse range of applicants such as smallholder farmers in Nigeria, US logistics and transportation companies, Belgian academics, Israeli technology companies, Chinese biologists and others from more than 30 countries. Solutions range from chemicals that can be applied to raw cassava to storage solutions such as solar-powered cold sheds to digital marketplaces that connect farmers to buyers. The 50 shortlisted organizations are now invited to submit further information on their solution for the next round of evaluation. The winning organizations will be announced by mid-November and will receive a grant of up to $1 million to pilot and scale their solution, as well as technical and strategic guidance from Dalberg Global Development Advisors and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

“The Rockefeller Foundation has a legacy of supporting innovations in agriculture that lead to improved lives and livelihoods, and the Cassava Innovation Challenge represents the Foundation’s commitment to ensuring that cassava growers receive the full value of their labor while enhancing food security,” said Dr. Rafael Flor Gavilanes, Director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise initiative. “The response to the Challenge has been tremendous, and we are optimistic that we are one step closer to solutions to the longstanding problem of high loss levels among cassava farmers.”

Though cassava can stay underground for several years, it has a short shelf life after harvest and spoils within 72 hours if left unprocessed or untreated. One-third of the world’s available food either spoils or gets thrown away before it ever reaches a plate, which is enough food to feed everyone in the world for two months. With 1.2 billion food insecure or undernourished people, millions of vulnerable smallholder farmers losing profits they cannot spare, and a population expected to increase by two billion by 2050, these losses cannot continue. The Challenge was designed to address this problem and has the potential to create massive global impact.

Solutions from the Challenge will be piloted in Nigeria, the world’s largest cassava producer where 40% of the crop spoils before consumption or processing, then scaled across Africa and around the world.

About The Rockefeller Foundation
For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, The Rockefeller Foundation pursues this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, The Rockefeller Foundation works at the intersection of four focus areas—advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities—to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot—or will not.

About Dalberg Global Development Advisors
Dalberg is a strategic advisory firm exclusively dedicated to global development and innovation. Our mission is to mobilize effective responses to the world’s most pressing issues and to raise living standards in developing countries. From our network of 14 global offices, we serve clients to make sustainable improvements in the lives of disadvantaged and underserved populations around the world. For more information, please visit:

About the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is one of the world’s leading research partners in finding solutions for hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Our award-winning research for development (R4D) addresses the development needs of tropical countries. We work with partners to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generate wealth 3 from agriculture. We are a non-profit organization founded in 1967, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported by several countries. For more information, please visit:

Media Contacts:
Rockefeller Foundation: Achieng Otieno
IITA: Kristina Roing de Nowina or Katherine Lopez

Challenge information:
Twitter: @RockefellerFdn, @DalbergTweet, @IITA_CGIAR