【Sunhak Peace Prize 2019】Africa's Agricultural Innovator Akinwumi Adesina "From Museum for Poverty To Place of Wealth"

Dr. Adesina was born into a family of smallholder farmers. Seeing the reality of rural poverty in his childhood, he learned the crucial link between agriculture and livelihoods, and attained a vision of unlocking the potential of Africa to feed itself and contribute to feeding the world. 

In 1988 after acquiring his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, in the United States of America, he returned to Africa and worked for a decade in three of the global agricultural research centers – the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, the West Africa Rice Development Association, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture spearheading policy work on getting agricultural technologies to farmers. 

Dr. Adesina joined the Rockefeller Foundation Agricultural Sciences where he helped to design a model called "The Agro-Dealers Network," which consist of a massive rural network of small village shops that taught modern agricultural techniques and sold seed varieties and fertilizers to farmers. He passionately cooperated with international and local NGOs to reach millions of farmers, yielding significant increases in food production across the continent.

Throughout his life, thanks to excellent political leadership and influence, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has continued to build high yielding technologies, designing and implementing policies to support farmers' access to technologies at scale, increasing the availability of credit for millions of smallholder farmers, attracting private investments for the agricultural sector, rooting out corrupt elements in the fertilizer industry, and assisting in the establishment of major agricultural policies for Africa's green revolution.

During his term as an Associate Director for Food Security at the Rockefeller Foundation in 2006, he ardently organized the Africa Fertilizer Summit, because he recognized that Africa desperately needed to spark a revolution in agricultural techniques using fertilizer to increase food production of smallholder farmers.

The summit was one of the largest high-level meetings in Africa's history to focus on solving Africa's food issues. Dr. Adesina succeeded in raising excitement and political will among the leaders at the summit and called for the adoption of the "Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution," of which all leaders in attendance stated their commitment to "eradicate hunger in Africa by 2030."

After the Summit and since 2006 as a Vice President for Policy and Partnerships at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (late Kofi Annan served as the Chairman), he developed an innovative financing system which ensured banks' capacity to lend credit to smallholder farmers who had no other ways to get out of the cycle of poverty.

With cooperation from banks from other countries, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the system leveraged $100 million in loans and contributed in bringing agricultural innovation to smallholder farmers.

The Bank of Uganda provided loans to farmers growing bananas, using $500,000 from Rockefeller Foundation's Program-Related Investment portfolio, and Kenya's Equity Bank, which is the largest bank in Kenya, launched a "risk sharing facility" that leveraged $50 million in financing for tens of thousands of smallholder farmers. This innovative system expanded to other countries and has greatly contributed to terminating the cycle of poverty of smallholder farmers.

As a result of his achievements, he was appointed as Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2011. During his term, he boosted food production by an additional 21 million metric tons over four years and attracted $5.6 billion in private-sector investments.

Moreover, he led an agricultural revolution by introducing the "E-Wallet System" which provided agricultural inputs and subsidized electronic vouchers, which allowed farmers to use them in lieu of cash to purchase fertilizer and seed varieties directly from agro-dealers.

The E-Wallet System also ended 40 years of corruption in the government-controlled fertilizer distribution system. As farmers used modern seed varieties in rice, maize and wheat production, the number of seed companies increased from 5 to 80 companies within just four years; farmer rice yields doubled to five to six tons of rice per hectare with improved seed varieties, and in the process, transforming the lives of 14.5 million farmers and their families. 

Nigeria's E-Wallet System drew attention as a critically innovative platform to end decades of corruption in the fertilizer supply chain and sparked a Borlaugian "Take it to the Farmer" revolution. Subsequently, global financial institutions such as the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral development finance institutions began supporting the scaling up of the program into other African countries and beyond.

Since 2015, as President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Adesina has set a number of strategic goals and spearheaded the growth of Africa with a "High 5 Strategy" which includes: light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa. His leadership is moving Africa forward with speed on many fronts.

Bank estimates indicate that in 2017, 4.4 million people were able to connect to electricity; 8.5 million people received benefited in the agricultural field, and 14 million people were beneficiaries of infrastructural investments in the transportation sector.

In addition to efforts to ramp Africa's infrastructure, he is driving a bold agenda for the African Development Bank to help deliver universal access to power in Africa within ten years for 645 million Africans who do not have access to electricity.

Based on his belief that, "The greatest infrastructure to build isn't a road or a rail or a port, but grey matter infrastructure, he established an initiative called "African Leaders for Nutrition" with the help of other world leaders such as Bill Gates; Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa; the late Kofi A. Annan; and the former President of Ghana, John Kuffor. Since the establishment of the initiative, Dr. Adesina has been at the forefront of eradicating malnutrition, stunting and poverty in Africa through agriculture.

Buoyed by a deep sense of urgency and the realization that Africa will have a population of 840 million young people by 2015, he is accelerating change and economic growth witha goal and plan to create 25 million jobs within ten years, much of which will come from the agricultural field.

Passionately driven to end poverty in Africa, he pursues this mission by building strategic alliances and partnerships across the world, between governments, private sector and civil society, with a determination to make Africa a "place of wealth" and not "a museum for poverty". He is mobilizing billions of dollars to make Africa a "land of investment" and not a land that needs "aid". 

*The Sunhak Peace Prize(선학평화상, 鮮鶴平和賞) was founded at the behest of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the wife of the late Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, and is given bi-annually in recognition of individuals and organizations that have made enduring contributions to help resolve worldwide suffering, conflict, poverty and threats to the environment, by promoting a comprehensive, future-oriented vision of peace. The laureate is awarded with a medal and plaque, as well as a monetary prize of US 1 million dollars.


Anote Tong/Kiribati: Improved global awareness of the severity of climate change and sought for action by the international community for its solution.

Modadugu Vijay Gupta/India: Pioneered the blue revolution and made innovative contributions to aquaculture development as an alternative solution to the looming food crisis.

Gino Strada/Italy: Fought for the right to medical care for refugees and war victims.

Sakena Yacoobi/Afghanistan: The mother of refugee education who proposed a fundamental solution for refugee resettlement.
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