IFAD President honoured for achievements in African agriculture

The Africa Food Prize recognizes Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD, for his individual leadership, but also for the results of successful efforts at IFAD in the years he has been at the helm. ©IFAD/Abate Damte
The Africa Food Prize recognizes Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD, for his individual leadership, but also for the results of successful efforts at IFAD in the years he has been at the helm. ©IFAD/Abate Damte

7 September 2016 - Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD, was awarded the inaugural Africa Food Prize at the African Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. In receiving the award, Nwanze said he was dedicating it to “the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families.”

The Africa Food Prize Committee, chaired by Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, selected Nwanze for his outstanding leadership and passionate advocacy in putting Africa´s smallholder farmers at the center of the global agricultural agenda.

 “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 a 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."

Alongside his tireless advocacy, Nwanze is credited with reorienting IFAD's work to focus more on making small-scale farming a viable business, as well as expanding IFAD's presence in developing countries to increase the organization's effectiveness. The Prize also acknowledges Nwanze´s courage in reminding African leaders to go beyond promising development and change to delivering it.

“I would like to dedicate this award to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families,” said Nwanze. “No nation has been able to transform itself without giving women the same rights and opportunities as men. Our hope for future generations rests with African women who bear and raise our young people who will shape the African continent in the years to come.”

Congratulating the laureate, Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said that Nwanze’s achievements reflect extremely well the ideals the award represents, putting a bright spotlight on 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.

“By calling attention to the exemplary leadership of Kanayo Nwanze and to the compelling ideas that have guided him,” said Kalibata, “we wish to encourage many others to follow in his footsteps and boldly use the opportunities available to them to change the reality of African farming—from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.”

Pepper crops were developed to adapt to a hot climate, sandy soil and little water in the village of Launi, Niger.
Pepper crops were developed to adapt to a hot climate, sandy soil and little water in the village of Launi, Niger.

The Prize recognizes Nwanze for his individual leadership, but also for the results of successful efforts at IFAD in the years he has been at the helm. Despite a major global economic downturn, he succeeded in growing the Fund´s overall resources, with significant increases in commitments from member states.

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.

Nwanze has also presided over far-reaching changes in the way IFAD approaches its work, with a focus on shifting activities from headquarters in Rome to offices in dozens of developing countries.

 “I know the difference it makes to see first-hand the value that one’s work is adding to someone’s life,” said Nwanze.

Under Nwanze´s leadership, IFAD has also taken up a more active role in the global policy dialogues. Together with its partners, it advocated for an emphasis on smallholder farmers in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted last year by world leaders, arguing successfully that these farmers have a central role to play in achieving a world free of hunger.

As an advocate for rural communities, Nwanze has consistently called on leaders to keep food security and agriculture at the center of development and budgetary priorities.

By positioning IFAD as a major knowledge institution, Nwanze has also helped provide the development community with fresh ideas, evidence, and tools in support of policy dialogue aimed at identifying the best ways to transform rural livelihoods.

On 14 September, IFAD will release its flagship publication, The Rural Development Report 2016, which offers guidance for policymakers in making policy choices and investments aimed at eradicating rural poverty.

In addition, IFAD has renewed and diversified sources of finance for agricultural development, gaining international recognition for its role in mobilizing investment. The new global framework for development finance, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, explicitly highlights IFAD’s pivotal role in channelling investment for smallholder development.

The professional journey that led Nwanze to become a distinguished development leader started 40 years ago in agricultural research. He worked as an entomologist in two CGIAR agricultural research centers, eventually becoming the director general of a third one—the Africa Rice Center.

His research background has shaped his leadership of IFAD, where he sharpened its focus on a more rigorous evidence-based approach to project design, implementation and impact evaluation.

“It is now quite clear what must be done to transform Africa´s agriculture and feed this continent sustainably,” said Obasanjo. “But all of our carefully crafted strategies, plans, and programs will accomplish little without able and visionary leaders. Kanayo Nwanze is one such leader, whose shining example, I hope, will give rise to many others.”