The first ever Africa Food Prize has been award to Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The Nigerian also received US$100, 000 (Equivalent to Ushs338m) as prize money at a gala ceremony organised by the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Nairobi this week.
A statement by the organisers praised Dr. Nwanze for his “visionary leadership and passionate advocacy on behalf of African smallholder farmers, work that has improved the lives of millions across the continent.” The organisers also praise the award as an attempt to highlight bold initiatives and technical innovations that can be replicated across the continent to create a new era of food security and economic opportunity for all Africans.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo who was part of the Selection Panel of imminent persons commented that: “[Dr. Nwanza’s] work demonstrates very well what one committed and visionary individual can do to guide and empower others to reach precisely the objectives we have discussed in this Forum.
He has been a passionate and persistent advocate for putting smallholder farmers at the center of the development agenda. He sees them not just as recipients of seeds or advice but as partners in learning how to do things better – how to make the leap from subsistence survival to a thriving business.”
Sheila Sisulu, former Special Envoy for Food and Nutrition Security of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa commended Kanayo as the best candidate. She said: “The committee had many deliberations, but in the end we all spoke with one voice.
Dr. Nwanze was the best, not only because of what he achieved at IFAD, but also because of his journey beforehand. What he brought with him when he joined IFAD was as important as what he has achieved there, using his experience and vision to advance the work of the organization.”
While commenting about the award, Dr. Kanayo reiterated his call for empowering smallholder farmers.
He told a news conference in Nairobi that: “When I first began to say that smallholder farms should be seen as businesses, my views were considered at best romantic, and at worst foolish. Today, the concept of smallholder farms as a business has become common place – this gives me great satisfaction.
“At the same time, we are still woefully failing to live up to our potential. Our investments should be focused on rural people….We have to get them the resources they need, including technology, knowledge, infrastructure, access to financial services, land rights, and social services. When they have these resources, they can lead their own development.”
The Africa Food Prize is the pre-eminent award recognizing an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa-from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.
Dr. Kanayo is credited for his instrumental role in introducing and promoting New Rice for Africa, or NERICA, a high-yield, drought- and pest-resistant variety developed specifically for the African landscape while he was President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is dedicated to ensuring that agriculture is a central part of the international development agenda and that governments recognize the concerns of smallholder farmers and other poor rural people. He is also a Member of the Global Agenda Council on Food Security at the World Economic Forum.