An OBE for Professor Sayed Azam Ali – in recognition of his research into underutilised crops for food and nutritional security
In January 2021 Sayed’s contribution to research in the field of underutilised crops and global food security was recognized in Her Majesty the Queen’s New Years Honours list. The award was conferred on him on 15th March 2022 by the Princess Royal on behalf of her Majesty at an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.
Sayed’s passion for alternative crops and cropping systems began over 30 years ago, with a visit to farmers in drought prone communities in Africa. The messages he received from the women farmers regarding their local crops, was that they were nutritious, hardy, and able to produce a yield when the other mainstream crops failed due to drought or heat. Why weren’t these crops more widely used? A question that has remained largely ignored and unanswered as global agriculture and food systems focus on a handful of staple crops.
As an environmental physicist, Sayed was interested in the mechanisms that enabled this; as a humanist, he sided with the disadvantaged, and did all he could to bring these local but still underutilised crops to the attention of the food and agricultural industries. Against the advice of many of his (elder) peers, who eschewed his efforts and offered sage advice that ‘if they were worth researching, we would have discovered them by now’ he initiated research to increase the understanding and explore the global potential of these ‘underutilised’ crops.
This began with the establishment of the Tropical Crops Research Unit at the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham. His research group conducted pioneering research into the impacts of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature on crop yields – long before climate change became the existential issue that it is today.
In 2010, as changing climates and global food security became more pressing issues, he established the Crops For the Future Research Centre (CFFRC) in Malaysia, the first global international research centre dedicated to underutilised crops.
Sayed now leads Crops For the Future (CFF) with the same vision of transforming food systems (and diets) through agricultural diversification. His recently published book `The Ninth Revolution: transforming food systems for good’ describes this vision.
It is testament to his foresight, perseverance, and belief that there has to be another way to nourish the world, that Sayed’s research has now been recognized at the highest level.
Posted on Thursday 24th March 2022