World Food Prize won by African De­vel­op­ment Bank pres­i­dent

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By DAVID PITT

THE son of a Nige­rian farm labourer, who rose out of poverty to earn grad­u­ate de­grees in agri­cul­tural eco­nomics, and spent his ca­reer im­prov­ing the avail­abil­ity of seed, fer­tiliser and fi­nanc­ing for African farm­ers, is the win­ner of this year’s World Food Prize, an­nounced Mon­day.

Ak­in­wumi Adesina, pres­i­dent of the African De­vel­op­ment Bank, said the fu­ture of global food se­cu­rity re­lies on mak­ing farm­ing in Africa a prof­itable business, and de­vel­op­ing lo­cal food pro­cess­ing that adds value to agri­cul­tural prod­ucts to help move farm­ers out of poverty.

“I be­lieve that what Africa does with agri­cul­ture, and how it does it, is not only im­por­tant for Africa but for how we’re going to feed the world by 2050, be­cause 65% of all the un­cul­ti­vated arable land left in the world is in Africa,” he said.

“To help Africa get it right in agri­cul­ture is also going to be a key part of se­cur­ing food for the world.”

World Food Prize Pres­i­dent Ken­neth Quinn, a for­mer United States am­bas­sador to Cam­bo­dia, said those goals are one rea­son the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s board chose Adesina this year for the $250,000 (RM1.07 mil) prize.

An of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment for the prize was made at a cer­e­mony at the US De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture in Wash­ing­ton, with USDA Sec­re­tary Sonny Per­due host­ing the event. Adesina, 57, works in Abid­jan, Ivory Coast, where the African De­vel­op­ment Bank is based. He will re­ceive the prize in a cer­e­mony on Oct 19 at the Iowa Capi­tol.

“Dr Adesina knows that our work is not done. The chal­lenge of feed­ing nine bil­lion peo­ple in just a short time will con­tinue as we ad­dress the hunger is­sue,” Per­due said.

“At USDA we keep that in mind, as the world pop­u­la­tion grows and we want to be a huge con­trib­u­tor in pro­vid­ing the food needed to re­solve and to sup­ply the global de­mand for that vital no­ble re­source.”

The World Food Prize was cre­ated by No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate Nor­man Bor­laug in 1986, to recog­nise sci­en­tists and oth­ers who have im­proved the qual­ity and avail­abil­ity of food. The foun­da­tion that awards the prize is based in Des Moines, Iowa.

The award recog­nises sev­eral of Adesina’s ac­com­plish­ments, in­clud­ing: Ne­go­ti­at­ing a part­ner­ship be­tween com­mer­cial banks and de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions to pro­vide loans to tens of thou­sands of farm­ers and agribusi­nesses in Kenya, Tan­za­nia, Uganda, Ghana and Mozam­bique; creating pro­grammes to make Nige­ria self-suf­fi­cient in rice pro­duc­tion and to help cas­sava be­come a ma­jor cash crop, while serv­ing as Nige­ria’s min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture from 2011 to 2015; help­ing to end more than 40 years of cor­rup­tion in the Nige­rian fer­tiliser and seed sectors by launch­ing an elec­tronic wal­let sys­tem that di­rectly pro­vides farm­ers with vouch­ers. The re­sult­ing in­creased farm yields have led to the im­prove­ment of food se­cu­rity for 40 mil­lion peo­ple in ru­ral farm house­holds.

Adesina said it’s vitally im­por­tant to show young peo­ple in ru­ral re­gions of Africa that farm­ing can be prof­itable, and can im­prove their lives, as a way to stem ter­ror­ist re­cruit­ment ef­forts.

He said high un­em­ploy­ment among young peo­ple, high or ex­treme poverty, and cli­mate and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion all con­trib­ute to con­di­tions in which ter­ror­ists thrive. These fac­tors make up “the dis­as­ter tri­an­gle”.

“Any­where you find those, you find ter­ror­ists op­er­at­ing. It never fails,” he said.

Adesina grew up in poverty in a ru­ral area of Nige­ria and said his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther worked the fields as labour­ers. Af­ter his fa­ther was cho­sen for a gov­ern­ment job, Adesina was able to go to col­lege. He earned agri­cul­ture eco­nomics de­grees – both a master’s and a doc­tor­ate – from Pur­due Uni­ver­sity in In­di­ana.

As a stu­dent, he saw that class­mates were able to at­tend school when agri­cul­ture af­forded them the op­por­tu­nity, but dropped out when it didn’t. So he learned that mak­ing agri­cul­ture prof­itable, so fam­i­lies can pro­vide their chil­dren with an ed­u­ca­tion, was a key to break­ing the poverty cy­cle.

Adesina said he of­ten thinks of the hun­dreds of mil­lions of young, ru­ral Africans whose op­por­tu­ni­ties are lim­ited be­cause of what is hap­pen­ing with agri­cul­ture.

“So in a way for me this is not a job,” he said.

“This is a mis­sion. And I be­lieve that in get­ting agri­cul­ture to be a business – turn­ing our ru­ral areas from zones of eco­nomic mis­ery to zones of eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity – lies the fu­ture of Africa’s youth, es­pe­cially ru­ral youths.” – AP

Ak­in­wumi Adesina, pres­i­dent of the African De­vel­op­ment Bank, is the son of a Nige­rian farm labourer, who rose out of poverty. — AP

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