It is not every day that you get to receive a US $100,000 award from three presidents for a lifetime’s work helping millions across Africa to put food on the table. For Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, who has spent decades in the trenches doing his part to improve food security in Africa, that was “Wednesday”.

The Nigerian this week became the recipient of the first ever Africa Food Prize. He was given the prize created by the Africa Green Revolution Alliance (AGRA) at a midweek event attended by president Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Rwandan leader Paul Kagame and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo in Nairobi.

“I hope I will inspire others” 

Receiving the award, Dr Nwanze, the president of Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said he hoped his win will inspire others to devote their lives to improving agriculture production in Africa. He also acknowledged that he hadn’t achieved success without collaborating with others and praised the role of small-holder farmers and women in agriculture.

High prize

Dr Nwanze received copious praise from Obasanjo who chaired the Prize Committee that picked him as the winner of the award.

“Dr Nwanze is a model for how a great leader can make a difference in the lives of people on the ground,” said Obasanjo.

“Whether that leader is the head of a global institution, a head of state or a head of small organization, Dr Nwanze’s accomplishments on behalf of African farmers are a reminder of what’s possible when you combine passion, good ideas, commitment, focus, hard work and dedication,” added the statesman.

The prize committee was pleased by Dr Nwanze’s leadership of IFAD, particularly how he had defied expectation to keep the fund flush and prosperous during a time of economic upheaval.

‘Despite a major global economic downturn, he succeeded in growing the Fund’s overall resources, with significant increases in commitments from member states,” read a statement.

‘‘As a result of this overall increase in IFAD’s portfolio of loans and grants, its ongoing investments in Africa more than doubled – from US$1.3 billion at the start of Nwanze’s tenure to $2.7 billion in 2015 – benefiting more than 75 million rural people,’‘ explained the statement.