WASHINGTON, June 26, 2017 – Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, has been announced as the winner of the 2017 World Food Prize.
The sixth World Food Prize winner from Africa, Adesina is being recognized for significantly expanding food production in his native Nigeria, increasing access to credit for smallholder farms across Africa, and energizing political forces to improve African agriculture. He will receive the award and $250,000 at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines this October.
“As someone who grew out of poverty, I know that poverty is not pretty,” said Adesina in a news release issued by the World Food Prize. “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.”
Adesina, who worked with 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug at the Rockefeller Foundation, received his college degree from the University of Ife in Nigeria and his master’s and Ph.D. from Purdue University. He was the lead organizer of the 2006 African Fertilizer summit, where Borlaug, then 92, challenged African leaders to bring the Green Revolution to the continent.
Adesina also served as vice president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and was Nigeria’s minister of agriculture when, in 2012, he introduced the E-Wallet system, “which broke the back of corrupt elements that had controlled the fertilizer distribution system for 40 years, earning him the reputation as the ‘farmer’s Minister,’ ” according to his World Food Prize biography.
The E-Wallet system “provided subsidized electronic vouchers directly to the farmers’ mobile phones, vouchers which were then used like cash to purchase fertilizer and seeds directly from agro-dealers,” according to the biography. “This led to a revolution in accessibility to the basic tools that farmers needed in order to significantly increase the quality and quantity of the crops they planted.”
“His reforms over five years led to dramatic increases in Nigerian food production and farm incomes,” the biography said. “Under his leadership, Nigeria’s food production expanded by 21 million metric tons, and the country attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investments in agriculture.”
Past World Food Prize Laureate Pedro Sanchez has dubbed Adesina “Africa’s Norman Borlaug,” according to World Food Prize President, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, who announced Adesina as the winner at a ceremony at USDA today.
Quinn described Adesina as having a “profound vision for enhancing nutrition, eliminating childhood stunting, uplifting smallholder farmers, empowering women and inspiring the next generation of young Africans as they confront the unprecedented challenges of the 21st century.”
Although he was not present at the announcement, Adesina said in an interview with the Des Moines Register that he was “greatly honored and excited to be given this prize for the work I have done over the years.”
Concluding the event, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “We’ve adopted a new motto for the United States Department of Agriculture. I think it fits very nobly and very appropriately to Dr. Adesina’s work and that is ‘Do right, and feed everyone.’”
Adesina is the 46th person to receive the prize, which has been awarded each year since 1986. Borlaug established it to honor the accomplishments of agricultural scientists working to end hunger and improve food supply. Dubbed the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture,” the highly esteemed prize bridges political, ethnic, religious and diplomatic divides, according to the World Food Prize website.