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‘Farmer’s minister’ named World Food Prize Winner

Preston Keres/USDA 2017 World Food Prize ceremony, Sec. Sonny Perdue
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue provides remarks during a ceremony recognizing Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, as the 2017 winner of the prestigious World Food Prize.
Economist who worked with Norman Borlaug has "scored some goals" for African agriculture.

Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank who has worked for two decades to transform agriculture on his continent has been named the recipient of the 2017 World Food Prize.

Dr. Adesina is credited with significantly expanding food production in Nigeria; introducing initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across Africa; and galvanizing the political will to transform African agriculture.

“The selection of President Akinwumi Adesina as the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate reflects both his breakthrough achievements as minister of agriculture of Nigeria and his critical role in the development of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” said Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa.

“It also gives further impetus to his profound vision for enhancing nutrition, uplifting smallholder farmers and inspiring the next generation of Africans as they confront the challenges of the 21st century.”

Dr. Adesina’s selection was announced during ceremonies at the USDA headquarters in Washington Monday (June 26). Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue gave keynote remarks and applauded the selection, which carries with it a $250,000 prize.

Created by Norman Borlaug

The World Food Prize was created by the late Dr. Norman Borlaug, a scientist and humanitarian generally credited with launching the Green Revolution that made possible the feeding of millions of people around the world.

President Adesina, who worked with Dr. Borlaug at the Rockefeller Foundation, took major steps to end over 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sectors in Nigeria by launching the E-Wallet system, directly providing farmers with vouchers redeemable for inputs using mobile phones.

The resulting increased farm yields have led to the improvement of food security for 40 million people in rural farm households.

“An Africa that can feed itself – it’s a big vision,” said Dr. Adesina as he assumed the presidency of the African Development Bank. “Ten years is a sufficient amount of time to do that. It will require political will. It will require a lot of resources, a lot of commitment from private sector. But I think we have set the direction, and we’ve put the stakes in the ground. That one is critical. And I can’t forget what Norman Borlaug used to tell me. ‘Akin, go score some goals for African Agriculture.’”

“Dr. Adesina’s inspirational leadership, during one of the most critical moments in Africa's history, provides a perfect centerpiece for the theme of our Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium in October: The Road out of Poverty,” said Quinn.

45 honored by World Food Prize

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Since its founding in 1986 by Dr. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, the World Food Prize has honored 45 outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions throughout the world. The World Food Prize annually hosts the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium and a variety of youth education programs to help further the discussion on cutting-edge global food security issues and inspire the next generation to end hunger.

Dr. Adesina’s policies expanded Nigeria’s food production by 21 million metric tons, and the country attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investments in agriculture - earning him the reputation as the “farmer’s Minister.”

“As someone who grew out of poverty, I know that poverty is not pretty,” said Dr. Adesina. “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.”

In 2006, as associate director for food security at the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Adesina played a critical leadership role in organizing the Africa Fertilizer Summit, which took place in Abuja, Nigeria. Dr. Borlaug hailed this event as absolutely essential in igniting the campaign to spread a new Green Revolution across Africa, which led to the creation of AGRA.

Partnerships established

While at AGRA, Dr. Adesina developed partnerships with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Kilimo Trust to provide loans to tens of thousands of smallholder farmers and the agribusinesses that support them in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Mozambique. 

As Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture from 2011 to 2015, Adesina successfully transformed his country’s agriculture sector through bold reforms, including creating programs to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production, and to help cassava become a major cash crop.

Dr. Adesina and his wife, Grace, have two adult children, Rotimi andSegun.

He holds a PhD in agricultural economics, Purdue University, masters of sciences degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University and a bachelors of agriculture degree from the University of Ife, Nigeria.

To watch a video of the ceremony, visit

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