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Akinwumi Adesina: Celebrating the First Nigerian Winner of World Food Prize Laureate II


Well seated at a vantage position in the gallery of the Rotunda of the Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa state, I watched Mr Olusegun Aremu Obansajo, a retired Army General, former Head of State and President of Nigeria, thrilled to no – limit, succinctly displaying his innermost joy and dancing to Adunni and Nefertiti music with Dr. and Mrs. Akinwumi Adesina to mark the ecstatic moment. It was a genuine show of happiness, displaying in an African way and the audience responded by a thunderous applause with shout of “Baba”. Despite the affable nature of the milieu and visible pleasantry of all and sundry, the vast majority of the audience was confused; what is the meaning of “Baba”? Is it another name of Adesina? An American lady sitting by my side whispered into my ears “Please, translate to me what the Musician is saying”. As a non – Yoruba language speaker, I said, “Nigeria has over 200 local languages and many Nigerians hardly speak more than three languages and thus, I don’t understand a word from the Musician song”. The lady was visibly more perplexed at how a single country is endowed with more than 200 different languages. Well, the Capitol gathering was certainly an African celebration in the heart of America.
The aforementioned was the pleasant scenario played at Capitol, Des Moines in the evening of 19th October 2017 during the award ceremony of the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate won Dr. Adesina. What was his scorecard, which earned him the most coveted prize in global fight against hunger, malnutrition, poverty and squalor? How did he emerge as a winner in this cutthroat competition among the best agricultural scientists and foremost philanthropists (donors of foods to the needy) worldwide?  Adesina’s scorecard was developed almost three decades by dint of hard work, commitment, perseverance and determination to eradicate poverty and make food available to all and sundry in all parts of African continent. World Food Prize Foundation provided reasons why Adesina was chosen as the winner of 2017 World Food Prize. Vanguard, one of the Nigerian dailies reported that President of the Foundation, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn announced Adesina as the winner of the prize “for driving change in African agriculture for over 25 years and improving food security for millions across the continent”. This means that in the last 25 years, Adesina has passionately led major policies of comprehensive support for millions of farmers across the continent, including access to financing and credit, access to agricultural technologies such as improved seeds and fertilizers and investment in agriculture from both the public and private sectors.
This column will x-ray a few important milestones that made Adesina the winner of 2017 World Food Prize for the record.

Adesina with Prof. MK Othman

The first was the African Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria. Adesina’s limelight was comprehensively noticed more than ten years when he successfully spearheaded 2006 African Fertilizer Summit. As an insightful agricultural scientist with vast experience of African farming system, Adesina believes in the efficacy of using improved inputs for higher output and thus, unless fertilizer accessibility, affordability and use are popularized on a wider scale in African countries, the farmers would never improve their productivity and their livelihoods would remain the same. Consequently, with active support of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006, Adesina gathered the world community, including Dr. Norman Borlaug of bless memory, the Rockefeller Foundation, the heads of IFAD and the African Commission—and many other notable heads of state and leaders of non-governmental organizations—to develop workable solutions to Africa’s fertilizer crisis.
The Abuja Summit in 2006 was one of the largest and most successful high-level gatherings in African history to discuss Africa’s food crisis and feasible solutions. Dr. Norman Borlaug, the most respectable personality, the architect of the Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America, was then 92 years old; he was not merely gracing the Summit but he played a key role at the Summit. He challenged the African presidents and leaders during his keynote speech by emphatically declaring that he wanted to see the Green Revolution take place in Africa before his death. At the conclusion of Borlaug’s speech, President Obasanjo, who hosted the gathering, was so moved by the speaker’s passionate words that he jumped out of the audience, beaten the security details and joined the old man at the podium, looked at audience of more than 1,000 and said “We’ve been chastised by Norm—and, so, we have to move forward and get our agriculture moving.” It was the most inspiring and motivating message from a respectable elder and dogged hunger fighter who provided foods on the dinning tables of over six billion people before his demise. The famous outcome of the summit was the adoption of the “Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution” by the government and NGO leaders who attended the Africa Fertilizer Summit. Their commitment was stated thus; “to combating poverty and food and nutrition insecurity in Africa and to direct our attention to key decisions that can move us forward with a view to eradicating hunger by 2030.”
Read also Adewunmi Adesina: Celebrating the first Nigerian winner of World Food Prize Laureate (1)
The second important stride was the formation of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to achieve the desires and wishes of the internationally acclaimed elder statesman, Dr. Norman Borlaug as expressed during his speech at the Fertilizer Summit.  Therefore, a crucial outcome of the success of the Africa Fertilizer Summit was the establishment of AGRA by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan served as Chairman, Dr. Namanga Ngongi as President and Dr. Adesina as Vice President for Policy and Partnerships. Adesina’s role in AGRA was spectacular as he mobilized banks to make massive investment in agriculture. He directly connected teeming African farmers to markets. This was in addition to making improved practices accessible to the farmers thereby increasing greatly diminishing rural poverty, wealth creation as well as achieving stability in the agriculture sector.  It was his effort that made the Bank of Uganda to lend to farmers growing bananas, using $500,000 from Rockefeller’s Program Related Investment – also known as Impact Investment – program.
Another milestone was Adesina’s facilitation for the development of partnership between International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of Kenya. This resulted in the launching of a risk sharing facility with Kenya’s largest bank, Equity Bank. The original $5 million leveraged $50 million of financing from Equity Bank to tens of thousands of smallholder farmers and the agro-dealers that supported them. Furthermore, he was able to scale up the Kenya’s strategy to other countries through a $10 million risk sharing facility. He facilitated the joining of AGRA by the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Kilimo Trust, which eventually leveraged $100 million for loans to farmers in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Benin, Togo and Liberia.
The biggest and most important milestone was Adesina’s role as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria. Adesina’s appointment as a cabinet Minister provided golden opportunity for him to touch the lives of millions of his fellow citizens positively. Record shows that under Adesina’s stewardship as Minister, Nigeria’s food production expanded by 21 million metric tons and attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investments in agriculture. He facilitated the creation of structure such as Nigerian Incentive Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and negotiated with the Central Bank of Nigeria to use $350 million to create a facility that leveraged $3.5 billion from commercial banks into agriculture. It was in deed the largest effort in Africa to get banks to lend to farmers and agribusinesses such staggering amount. Farmers were the major beneficiaries of NIRSAL as they received access to lending institutions and improved access to markets for their produce at the best possible prices. Happily, the Government of Muhammadu Buhari continued with this policy. On fertilizer, he introduced e – wallet system, which dismantled decades of corruption and the infamous roles of middlemen in the fertilizer distribution system. Thus, Adesina was able to empower farmers to obtain the needed inputs directly through the e – wallet system. For the first time after many years, farmers benefited from the government subsidy in fertilizer.The system impacted on the lives of 14.5 million farmers and their families. The efficient delivery of inputs to farmers combined with other interventions saw a sharp growth of $2 billion in five value chains of cassava, rice, sorghum, maize and cotton. The impact of the fertilizer distribution to women through e – wallet was beyond imagination – a reason why a dry season woman farmer beat protocol and security details to hug and shower her appreciation to the Minister during his visit to farming community of Kano. “Honorable Minister, we sincerely and immensely thank you for this” – showing her small, Nokia handset signifying e-wallet. That was Adesina, the darling of poor resourced farmers of Africa, a famous scientist, friend to society’s movers and shakers and the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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