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By Matt Hayes
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  • Department of Global Development
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
  • Global Development

Canaan Boyer earned the 2022 CALS Core Value Staff Award for Inclusion for exemplary contributions to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). She was recognized for her commitment to inclusion as project manager for NextGen Cassava, called "one of the most successful crop breeding projects in the world."

Boyer joined Cornell CALS in 2017 as project manager for NextGen Cassava, an action-oriented global project working to empower smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa through innovative and sustainable cassava breeding. Managing a highly complex, multicultural and multilingual project spanning 13 time zones in Africa, Europe, North America and South America requires a deft touch, said Ronnie Coffman, Ph.D. ‘72, principal investigator for NextGen and professor emeritus of plant breeding and genetics.

“NextGen Cassava is a shining example of the impact agricultural science can produce for people around the world, and Canaan has been an essential part of NextGen’s success,” Coffman said. “Canaan encourages diversity in all dimensions. She is adaptable beyond the call of duty and manages to cope with the quickly changing priorities and demands that are characteristic of our project.”

Working with global partners, NextGen employs advanced plant breeding tools to produce elite varieties of cassava that provide higher yields, superior disease resistance and preferred end-user characteristics. The project has received $60 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Chiedozie Egesi, project director for NextGen and adjunct professor in the Department of Global Development and School of Integrative Plant Science, praised Boyer for her ability to represent the interests, actions and outcomes of a global group of development specialists and their local stakeholders.

“Canaan brings her multi-tasking abilities and multilingual strength to bear in the work which makes her an indispensable team member for the cassava team at Cornell,” said Egesi, who also serves as senior scientist for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Boyer also helped launch and manage the Muhogo Bora project, which develops and expands cassava seed systems in Tanzania with a focus on women, youth and rural farmers. Muhogo Bora —which means “better cassava for all” in Swahili — and NextGen Cassava are both part of the Department of Global Development.

"Canaan is clearly an invaluable contributor to what has become one of the most successful crop breeding projects in the world,” said Benjamin Z. Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS, who recognized Boyer for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment on campus.

NextGen Cassava

NextGen Cassava is an international, cross-disciplinary team of 13 institutional partners across eight countries on four continents, each contributing their expertise to make the project’s goals a reality. Discover more about NextGen's 10 years of impact

Canaan Boyer speaks on stage with a large video screen beside her

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