The World Food Prize has been labelled the Nobel Prize for Agriculture. The prize was first awarded in 1987 in recognition of the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. Since 1987, the prize has been awarded annually to recognize contributions in any field involved in the world food supply: food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership, and the social sciences.
Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture, and currently the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina was awarded the World Food Prize. In a press release that named Adesina as the 2017 laureate, it said “Through his roles over the past two decades with the Rockefeller Foundation, at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and as Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria, Dr. Adesina has been at the forefront of galvanizing political will to transform African agriculture through initiatives to: expand agricultural production, thwart corruption in the Nigerian fertilizer industry and exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent.”
Adesina is not the first African to be awarded this prize, however, he’s the first Nigerian. The first African to be awarded the prize was Sierra Leonean agriculturalist, Dr Monty Jones in 2004. He developed the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) with the potential to increase rice yields in Africa. Adesina is recognised for being an innovator in funding and financing African agriculture.
As the president of AfDB since 2015, Adesina has worked with government, and business leaders in order to help small holder farmers in agribusinesses grow and prosper.
According to the release, Adesina’s major goal is to end malnutrition and stunting, an affliction caused by chronic under-nutrition during critical developmental periods early in life that affects over 40 percent of children in Africa.
Adesina was quoted as saying, “The greatest infrastructure to build isn’t a road or a rail or a port, as important as those are. The most significant infrastructure is brain power.” Adesina co-founded the African Leaders for Nutrition Panel with John Kufuor, the 2011 World Food Prize Laureate and former President of Ghana.
The $250,000 annual award was established by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in global agriculture, envisioned a prize that would honuor those who have made significant and measurable contributions to improving the world’s food supply. Beyond recognizing these people for their personal accomplishments, Borlaug saw the Prize as a means of establishing role models who would inspire others. His vision was realized when The World Food Prize was created in 1986 with sponsorship by General Foods Corporation.