My countryRwandajust marked the 25th anniversary of what may be the worst chapter in its history: the1994genocideagainst the Tutsi. On April 7, President Paul Kagame lit a flame in the capital city of Kigali. It will burn for 100 days.

We must remember the pastso that we dont repeat our mistakes. At the same time, we must look to the futureand make sure its as bright as possible.

Thats why Im so pleased that my fellow RwandanAgnes MatildaKalibatahas won the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal.The formal recognition will take place on April 28 in Washington, D.C.

Dr.Kalibatahas devoted herself to one of the worlds greatest challenges: improving food production in Africa, wherehunger and malnutrition poseongoing threatsto humansflourishing.

The future of our continent depends uponher successand others like her.

Sothis isnot onlya wonderfultribute to aremarkable lady, but alsoan important recognitionof the enormous problem that she hopes to solve.

TheNAS, a nonprofit group based in the United States,describesthePublic Welfare Medalas its most prestigious award, given annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good.

Previous winners include Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution; Bill and Melinda Gates, for theirglobal-health philanthropy; and Herbert Hoover, who led food-relief efforts during the First World War.

NowKalibatajoins this distinguished list.Since 2014, she has headed the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), headquartered in Kenya. It aims to improve food security for 30 million people in 11 sub-Saharan nations.

Before joining AGRA,Dr.Kalibatawas RwandasMinister ofAgriculture andAnimalResources.In this post, shewas a powerful advocate forour sector. She encouraged farmers to coordinate their crop plantings so that extension services can offer more effective support. She also oversaw the introduction of improved seeds and fertilizers,allowingRwandan farmerstomake the most of modern agriculture.Because of her efforts, poverty rates dropped.

I dont knowDr.Kalibatawell, but as chairman of the Coffee Exporters and Processors Association of Rwanda,I worked with her when we organizeda research symposiumto discuss an issue that challenges East African coffee growerscalled potato taste defect, which can cause coffee to take on an unwelcome flavor. Although were still learning how to deal with this problem, which confronts coffee growers in Rwanda andour neighboringcountries, Icame to appreciateher determinationto help us preserve and expand our opportunities.

The NAS creditsKalibatafor her work to drive Africas agricultural transformation through modern science and effective policy, helping to lift more than a million Rwandans out of poverty and scaling impacts for millions more African farmers.

Marcia McNutt, the president of NAS, gave a personal endorsement. Kalibatahas long championed science and evidence as the basis for practical agricultural policies that have transformed Rwanda to a model of prosperity and security, she said. Her actions exemplify science as a powerful force for growth and well-being, and we are thrilled to present her with our highest award.

This is so true. On my farm, where we grow Arabica beans, we rely on science and technology.We use GPS tools to monitor our land and social media to trade information faster than ever before. We use crop-protection products to drive away pests. One day, I hope that well even have access to GMO coffee thatcouldhelp us resist disease and drought in an era of climate change. These innovations are still a long way off, but well never enjoy them if we dont at least start to think about them now.

Looking to the future has helped Rwanda improve its present. The World Bank says Rwanda is the top country for doing business on the African mainland. Were also known forclean streets,low crime,and resistance to corruption. Our economy has grown by about 7 percent per year over the last decade. Agricultural exports have helped make this possibleandKalibatadeserves a portion of the praise.

The political will of the government of Rwanda under President Kagames leadership to support the farmers is a big opportunity. And recognizing a Rwandan national on the international scene, is a recognition of Rwanda as a country that has been working hard to eradicate famine and hunger in their country.

Something tells me that the Public Welfare Medal is not the last prize shell ever receive.