Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, was announced Monday as the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue gave keynote remarks and applauded the selection.
Awarded by the World Food Prize Foundation, the $250,000 prize honors Adesina of Nigeria for his leading role over the past two decades in: significantly expanding food production in Nigeria, introducing initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent and galvanizing the political will to transform African agriculture.
"The selection of president Akinwumi Adesina as the 2017 World Food Prize laureate reflects both his breakthrough achievements as minister of agriculture of Nigeria and his critical role in the development of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). It also gives further impetus to his profound vision for enhancing nutrition, uplifting smallholder farmers and inspiring the next generation of Africans as they confront the challenges of the 21st century," Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, said in making the announcement of Adesina's selection.
As Nigeria's minister of agriculture from 2011 to 2015, Adesina's policies expanded Nigeria's food production by 21 million metric tons, and the country attracted $5.6 billion in private-sector investments in agriculture -- earning him a reputation as the "farmer's minister." Adesina successfully transformed his country's agriculture sector through bold reforms, including creating programs to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production and to help cassava become a major cash crop.
Adesina also took major steps to end more than 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sectors in Nigeria by launching the E-Wallet system, directly providing farmers with vouchers redeemable for inputs using mobile phones. The resulting increased farm yields have led to the improvement of food security for 40 million people in rural farm households.
"As someone who grew out of poverty, I know that poverty is not pretty," Adesina said. "My life mission is to lift up millions of people out of poverty, especially farmers in rural areas of Africa. We must give hope and turn agriculture into a business all across Africa to create wealth for African economies. The World Food Prize gives me an even greater global platform to make that future happen much faster for Africa."
In 2006, as associate director for food security at the Rockefeller Foundation, Adesina played a critical leadership role in organizing the Africa Fertilizer Summit, which took place in Abuju, Nigeria. World Food Prize Foundation founder and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Norman Borlaug had hailed this event as absolutely essential in igniting the campaign to spread a new Green Revolution across Africa, which led to the creation of AGRA.
While at AGRA, Adesina developed partnerships with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corp. and the Kilimo Trust to provide loans to tens of thousands of smallholder farmers and agribusinesses that support them in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Mozambique.
"An Africa that can feed itself: It's a big vision," Adesina said as he assumed the presidency of the African Development Bank. "Ten years is a sufficient amount of time to do that. It will require political will. It will require a lot of resources, a lot of commitment from private sector, but I think we have set the direction, and we've put the stakes in the ground. That one is critical, and I can't forget what Norman Borlaug used to tell me: 'Akin, go score some goals for African agriculture.'"
"Dr. Adesina's inspirational leadership, during one of the most critical moments in Africa's history, provides a perfect centerpiece for the theme of our Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium in October: The Road out of Poverty," Quinn said.