Adesina’s World Food Prize: An honour well deserved
Sir: The piece of heart-warming news that our own Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, current president, African Development Bank and former minister of Agriculture and Rural Development under President Goodluck Jonathan has been named the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate could not have come at a better time. With Nigeria experiencing a turbulent econo-political period, the award comes as a breath of fresh air. What makes it more cheering is the fact that it is a well deserved laurel for a distinguished Nigerian. Adesina epitomises a bright beacon of hope in our long, dark tunnel of ignorance, poverty, apathy and self-inflicted woes.
As one of his consistent admirers over the years, the focus is on the lasting lessons we all could glean from him on professionalism, pragmatic leadership, selfless service, patriotism and can-do it spirit. It would be recalled, that back in 2008 when yours truly was the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of Strata Media Organization, Adesina granted our rich and colourful Food business International Magazine, a two-page, pull-out interview. It was through the Assistant Editor, Lanre Agboola. The then editor, Zeb Agomuo was thrilled. In fact, that incisive interview not only sold out the Vol.1, No7 Edition but got the members of staff academically enriched and thoroughly inspired. Adesina was then the Vice President (Policy and Partnerships), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
He used that opportunity to canvass subsidy for African farmers. Said he: “When I say smart subsidies, I mean the private sector has to distribute the inputs, the government supports the farmers together. We also have to make sure it is a targeted subsidy” that would benefit the poor farmers. “The government has to make sure that the farmers are provided with proper extension services, to be very efficient.” What made him sad was when ‘‘I see so many graduates of agriculture all across Africa roaming the streets, looking for jobs. It is a bizarre thing.”
Good enough, he walked the talk when he eventually became the minister of Agriculture. As aptly captured by Kenneth Quinn, the President, the World Food Prize, the Hall of Laureates, described Adesina as “someone who grew out of poverty, but whose life mission is to lift up millions of people out of poverty’’. Inspiring, is it not? Of course, it is.
These are reflected in his breakthrough achievements all through his career. The list is long but let us have a taste of the pudding. For instance, as the Vice President of AGRA he introduced initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent. Not done, he galvanized the political will to transform African agriculture. Back in 2006, as the Associate Director for Food Security at the Rockefeller Foundation, Adesina played a critical leadership role in organising the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja. That summit was described as absolutely essential in igniting the campaign to spread a new Green Revolution across Africa, which led to the creation of AGRA.
Furthermore, as minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, from 2011 to 2015 he successfully transformed the country’s agriculture sector through bold reforms. He it was who introduced the E-Wallet system which broke the back of the corrupt elements that had controlled the fertilizer distribution system for 40 years. In addition, was the creation of programmes to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production, as well as to make cassava become a major cash crop.
The related value chain he clamoured for saw the input of 20 per cent cassava flour to 80 per cent wheat flour in the making of composite bread. Also, the ‘Nagroprenuers’ scheme he introduced made way for the training of 750,000 young graduates in commercial farming.
As Quinn rightly noted the reforms he implemented increased food production by 21 million metric tonnes and attracted 5.6 billion dollars in private sector investments. This earned him the reputation as the ‘Farmer’s Minister’.” Incidentally, Adesina has become the first person from the agriculture sector to ever lead a regional development bank. His receiving the World Food Nobel Laureate Prize “would give impetus in the coming decade to his profound vision.” Adesina is also the 46th person and the sixth African to win the World Food Prize. Are we not immensely proud of him? Yes, we are!
That explains the presence of the former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nigeria’s Acting Ambassador to the U.S. and Chargé d ‘ Affaires, Ambassador Hakeem Balogun to savour the momentous occasion. Note that they were not there as Igbo, Yoruba or whatever but as proud Nigerians to identify with a son of the soil, holding the green-white-flag of unity and progress, peace and prosperity for the whole world to see. That is another lesson for us all.
Ayo Oyoze Baje.