Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, global lead for nutrition and public health of WorldFish, visiting a field containing experimental Mola-carp variants during one of her visits to Bangladesh
She won the most prestigious prize, which is also known as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture”
The World Food Foundation has awarded the World Food Prize 2021 to Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, global lead for nutrition and public health of WorldFish, for developing the pond polyculture system in a sustainable way of farming small fish and large carps together in homestead ponds, water bodies, and rice fields.
She won the most prestigious prize, which is also known as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture” at a virtual prize distribution ceremony on May 11, said a press release.
“I am truly honoured to receive this award. I feel humbled to be placed in such distinguished ranks of past laureates. 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,” said Shakuntala Thilsted.
As a human nutritionist, Thilsted emphasized that small fishes, not only provide protein and amino acids, they are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin 12, and essential micronutrients, like iron, zinc, and calcium.
Her last 20 years of consistent untiring research and development efforts have brought changes in peoples’ mindset on aquatic farming practices in Bangladesh.
The technologies developed in Bangladesh have later been, disseminated to Cambodia, India, Nepal, and Myanmar in Asia, and Zambia and Malawi in Africa.
Thilsted approached Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) Mymensingh to develop collaboration with colleagues on researching nutrient-rich SIS, especially Mola culture along with carps at the BAU Fisheries Field Laboratory back in 1996.
It started with Nana Roos, a Danish PhD student, from the Copenhagen University, and M. Kohinoor, a scientist from Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI), another PhD student enrolled at BAU.
The staffs of the Department of Fisheries (DoF) and BFRI, and teachers from universities joined this mission to pursue graduate studies. A dozen of PhDs and two dozens of masters’ were trained on optimization of Mola-based technologies like mola-carp polyculture, mola-shrimp-carp, rice-fish farming, etc.
BAU received more research funds from the EU (PONDLIVE Project), USAID (CDR Project), DANIDA funded (RUF Project), USAID (AquaFish CRSP) over next 10-15 years that helped to diversify the technologies and take the technologies from lab to field for wider dissemination.
Through USAID’s AIN project, Mola-Carp, Mola-Tilapia, Mola-f/w prawn with integrated dyke vegetable got momentum in the southwest region of the country.
Benoy Barman and Firoz Khan through CISSA and IFAD funded projects promoted Mola/SIS technologies to the North Bengal and northeast Haor regions.
WorldFish Bangladesh through its USAID’s ECOFISH II is actively promoting dry fish and fish powder from the small pelagic marine fish (marine mola, sardine, etc.) through fishers’ women community participation.