It is said that no one in the world managed to save more people than plant scientist Norman E. Borlaug, an American of Norwegian descent. On Borlaug’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Nobel committee said of him, “He has given us a well-founded hope, an alternative of peace and of life – the green revolution.” He was therefore, referred to as the father of the green revolution, which title he called “a miserable term” during his life. Borlaug died at 95 in 2009 but though we all miss him, Africa cannot claim to be short of similar minded leaders.
However, Borlaug left a standing legacy through the World Food Prize and this is where the 2017 World Food Prize laureate, Dr Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina comes in. The World Food Prize website rightly states that, “Dr. Adesina has been heralded as “Africa’s Norman Borlaug”, and for the past 25 years has passionately spearheaded major policies of comprehensive support for millions of farmers across the continent…” In fact, Borlaug left Adesina a great commission, “Akin, go score some goals for African Agriculture.”
Dr. Adesina is the President of the African Development Bank but he served as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria. He has also worked with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to “galvanize political will to transform African agricukture through initiatives to expand agricultural production, thwart corruption in the Nigerian fertilizer industry and exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent.”
One of the high points of his career predictably starred the late Borlaug at the Africa Fertiliser Summit where the late scientist banged his hand on a table and told African leaders, “I want to see a green revolution in Africa before I die.” Adesina had rallied the world community together with Presideent Olusegun Obasanjo culminating in the summit. Leaders gathered at the summit adopted the “Abuja Declration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution”, a leap towards the Green Revolution. No one can doubt that Adesina has been running with the African Green Revolution drive since. In his own words, “For me, there will be no rest until we are able to feed Africa.”
Adesina became Vice President for Policy and Partnerships in the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa where he played a major role in convincing banks to invest in agriculture and helping connect farmers to markets. He was appointed Minister of Agriculture in President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet and the country attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investments in agriculture. He also curtailed the proliferation of corruption in fertiliser distribution by cutting out middle men. Adesina has held the Presidency of the African Development Bank since 2015 and this position has enabled him to strengthen agribusinesses in Africa. In the next 10 years, the bank is investing $24 billion n the agriculture sector and agribusiness. Adesina says the World Food Prize “puts the wind behind” the bank’s sail in the pursuit of food security in Africa.
Because of his efforts, Dr. Adesina was named The Forbes Africa Person of the Year in 2013, attained the CAST Communication Award in 2010 and the YARA Prize in 2007. He says, “The World Food Prize gives me greater zeal to feed Africa and end hunger in our world. No resting until we succeed.”