Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and former Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, is the recipient of the 2017 World Food Prize, an award that carries similar prestige to the Nobel prizes.
The award was announced during a ceremony hosted by the United States Department of Agriculture on June 26. Dr. Adesina is being recognized for the work he has been carrying out for more than 20 years in developing fair and equitable food production policies in Nigeria and across Africa.
During his term as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Adesina focused on the welfare of family farmers, whom he believes must be educated and empowered so that they are clearly aware of the important contributions they can make in terms of national nutrition. Dr. Adesina has been very active in the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an organization that supports environmentally responsible practices such as bird-friendly coffee and rotating crops.
As an economist, Dr. Adesina realizes that farmers are often left out of the financial system; to this effect, he has championed the development of commercial banks that provide loans and credit programs to Nigerian family farmers. He also implemented a transparent and efficient system of payments and distribution of fertilizer across the African continent.
Dr. Adesina is confident that Nigeria and other African nations blessed with fertile land could vastly improve their socioeconomic standing through fair agricultural practices. As Minister of Agriculture, a substantial portion of his work revolved around identifying and eliminating pockets of corruption; this is something that he believes must be accomplished across the Continent for the purpose of lifting nations out of poverty. Dr. Adesina has also tried to implement a mobile banking system for farmers similar to Kenya’s M-Pesa network, but he has not been successful in this regard.
Although his professional career has been in the field of economics, farming has always been close to Dr. Adesina’s heart. He was born into a Nigerian farming family in 1960; he obtained his first economics degree in the mid-1980s from a Nigerian university and a PhD from Purdue University in the United States. Dr. Adesina has also worked closely with the Rockefeller Foundation and the United Nations. In Nigeria, his agricultural vision has greatly increased food production; he has a lot of respect for the farming systems of countries such as Brazil, which is in a position of achieving self-sufficiency through agriculture.
The World Food Prize has a cash award of $250,000. Dr. Adenisa is not the first African to earn this prize; past recipients have been from Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.
Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons – Eric Roset / Africa Progress Panel / cc-by-2.0