By Modupe Gbadeyanka
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has promised to use his $250,000 World Food Prize money to assist young farmers in Africa.
Earlier this week, Mr Adesina was announced winner of the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate in the United States by the Governor of the State of Iowa, Mr Kim Reynolds, on behalf of the World Food Prize Foundation.
Accompanied by Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, and John Mahama, former President of Ghana, Mr Adesina took elegant steps to the podium to receive the award – the world’s highest recognition for food and agriculture, with his wife Grace and his two children, Rotimi and Segun, and a large and distinguished crowd cheering him on. Representatives of the Nigerian Government, Purdue University, his alma mater, friends, associates and Bank staff were among the well-wishers who came in out in large numbers to celebrate the African agriculture icon, known as “Africa’s Norman Borlaug.”
During his speech, in line with his avowed commitment to a new deal for youth empowerment, Mr Adesina pledged to devote the $250,000 prize money to a fund in support of young African farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs, or “agripreneurs.”
“And so, even though I don’t have the cash in my hand, I hereby commit my $250,000 as a cash prize for the World Food Prize award to set up a fund fully dedicated to providing financing for the youth of Africa in agriculture to feed Africa,” Mr Adesina said.
“We will arise and feed Africa. The day is coming very soon when all its children will be well-fed, when millions of small-holder farmers will be able to send their kids to school,” Mr Adesina said.
“Then you will hear a new song across Africa: ‘Thank God our lives are better at last.’”
President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, paid tribute to Mr Adesina, “whose breakthrough achievements have impacted millions of farmers and those living in rural poverty in Nigeria and throughout Africa, and whose leadership holds great promise for uplifting millions and millions more across that continent.”
In a speech at the colourful ceremony, the Vice-President of the United States of America, Mr Michael Pence, commended the Laureate in a speech read on his behalf by Mark Green, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“As our global food system is stretched, and the need to feed more people grows, agricultural transformation will require persistence from leaders like you in driving change and capitalizing on public- and private-sector expertise,” Mr Pence said.
The Vice-President described Mr Adesina’s devotion to the cause of fighting global hunger as admirable, and deeply needed, and on behalf of President Donald Trump, extended heartfelt congratulations.
“The United States is and remains committed to food security, and we will continue to work with leaders like you to find innovative ways to end global hunger,” he said.
The Purdue University Glee Club and multiple award-winning all-female Nigerian signing group, Adunni and Nefertiti, set the mood of the evening with musical performances, followed by the star act: Omawumi, a popular Nigerian vocalist, who had flown in from Lagos for the occasion.
The infectious rhythms of Adunni and Nefertiti and popular songs of Omawumi soon moved Mr Adesina and his wife to get up on the dance floor, where they were joined by Mr Obasanjo.
The evening was capped by an elegant award ceremony dinner in the Capitol Rotunda.
Under President Adesina’s leadership, the AfDB is accelerating agricultural development through its Feed Africa Strategy with planned investment of $24 billion over the next 10 years.
The World Food Prize also recognizes Mr Adesina’s work over the past two decades with the Rockefeller Foundation, at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture of Agriculture and Rural Development.
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