On Monday June 26, 2017 Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, was announced as the winner of the 2017 World Food Prize. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Hon. Sonny Perdue gave the keynote remarks during the ceremony and applauded the selection. Dr. Adesina, often referred to as “Africa’s Norman Borlaug,” is lauded for his leading role in implementing bold policy reforms in the agricultural sector. Over the past two decades he has played a critical role in significantly expanding production of food in Nigeria, introducing initiatives to increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across Africa, and stirring the political will to transform African agriculture.
Born on February 6, 1960 in Ebadam, Nigeria, Dr. Adesina was the second of four sons born to Roland Folorunso Adesina and Eunice Adesina. He attended a village school rather than a city school because his father thought it was important for him to see the reality of rural poverty experienced by smallholder farmers and their families. This was a defining period for young Dr. Adesina, who learned early in life about the crucial link between agriculture and livelihoods. He earned a first-class honours Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Ife, Nigeria in 1981. In 1988, he completed a PhD in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in the United States, where he won the Outstanding PhD Thesis Award for his research work.
He won the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 1988, which launched his international career in global agricultural development. From 1990 to 1995, Dr. Adesina served as Senior Economist at WARDA (West African Rice Development Association, later known as Africa Rice) in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire—where Dr. Monty Jones (2004 World Food Prize Laureate) was breeding new rice varieties known as NERICA. Later, as Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Adesina brought this “new rice for Africa” to Nigeria, which resulted in significant increases in rice production that helped the country become self-sufficient in rice. He next served as Senior Economist at IITA (International Institute for Tropical Agriculture) in Ibadan, Nigeria from 1995 to 1998.On 28 May 2015, Dr. Adesina was elected the President of the African Development Bank. He is the eighth president in the organization’s history, and the first Nigerian to hold the post.
In 2010, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as one of 17 global leaders to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals, along with Bill Gates, the Spanish Prime Minister and the President of Rwanda. He was named Person of the Year by Forbes Africa magazine in 2013.
Dr Adesina says the future of global food security relies on making farming in Africa a profitable business and developing local food processing that are value adding to agricultural products to eliminate poverty. “I believe that what Africa does with agriculture and how it does it is not only important for Africa but it’s important for how we’re going to feed the world by 2050 because 65 percent of all the uncultivated arable land left in the world is in Africa. To help Africa get it right in agriculture is also going to be a key part of securing food for the world.” World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn said those goals are one reason the organization’s board chose Dr. Adesina this year for the $250,000 prize.
“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,” said Ambassador Quinn, when he made the announcement.
“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,” said Dr. Adesina.
ABOUT THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE: The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the World Food Prize has honored 45 outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions throughout the world. The World Food Prize annually hosts the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium and a variety of youth education programs to help further the discussion on cutting-edge global food security issues and inspire the next generation to end hunger.
Read more here on the World Food Prize winner.