Dr. Florence Chenoweth
Liberian Minister of Agriculture
A native of Liberia, Dr. Florence Chenoweth holds a Master’s degree in agricultural economics and her PhD in land resources from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In the 1970s, she became Liberia's Minister of Agriculture. Dr. Chenoweth’s years of public service and career have been devoted to improving the livelihoods and food security of women farmers in Africa.
No stranger to the political struggles of Africa, in 1980, Dr. Chenoweth and her family escaped Liberia after a violent coup, walking across the country to safety in Sierra Leone. Undeterred in her commitment to sustainable agricultural development in Africa, Dr. Chenoweth joined the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as its representative in Gambia, West Africa in 1995 and went on to open FAO's first office in South Africa following the end of apartheid. In 2001, Dr. Chenoweth was named FAO liaison with the UN in New York City, serving as the link between the agency and the UN General Assembly until 2007.
Recently, with the support of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a past Africa Prize laureate herself, Dr. Chenoweth implemented a Back to the Soil campaign in her native Liberia that enables rural women in female-headed households to receive at least 30 percent of needed farm inputs. This initiative has already led to a significant increase in staple food production, particularly rice and cassava, and as a result, the World Food Programme has begun purchasing locally produced rice from the country.
Under Dr. Chenoweth’s leadership, Liberia’s Ministry of Agriculture is training rural women with small farm equipment, food processing equipment and conducting farmer-to-farmer trainings, so that they become self sufficient in food production.
Honoring Dr. Chenoweth with the 2011 Africa Prize distinguishes her as a role model not only to women, but to all African leaders.
Photo courtesy of FAO News.