Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will be awarded the inaugural Africa Food Prize this evening at the African Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi.

Dr. Nwanze is to be recognized for his exceptional leadership in putting Africa’s smallholder farmers at the center of the global agricultural agenda. The Africa Food Prize Committee, chaired by Olusegun Obasanjo, acknowledges Nwanze´s courage in tasking African leaders to go beyond promising promises of development, to delivering it.

Why was he selected?

Dr. Nwanze is recognized for his tireless advocacy and is credited with reorienting IFAD´s work to focus more on making small-scale farming a viable business. He is also recognized for expanding IFAD’s presence in developing countries to increase the organization’s effectiveness.

Nwanze helped increase the specialized United Nations agency’s funds despite taking over in the midst of a recession in 2009. As a result of this overall increase in IFAD´s portfolio of loans and grants, the organization has aided more than 75 million rural people as its investments in Africa more than doubled—from US$1.3 billion at the start of Nwanze´s tenure to $2.7 billion in 2015.  

“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 head of a small organization, Dr. Nwanze’s accomplishments on behalf of Africa’s farmers are a reminder of what’s possible when you combine passion, good ideas, hard work and dedication.”

Nwanze also shaped the way IFAD approaches its work for the better. By shifting activities from headquarters in Rome to offices in dozens of developing countries, they have increased farmers’ access to resources. The deployment of funds to projects has also been more effective. There were only six country offices in Africa a decade ago, there are now 20 in Africa, with a total of 40 globally.

Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), congratulated the laureate, highlighting the need for more bold initiatives and technical innovations across the continent to bring about positive gains in food security and economic opportunity for Africans.

More about Dr. Nwanze and his work

Dr. Nwanze is a firm believer in the need to get more women  involved in agricultural initiatives. “I would like to dedicate this award to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families,” said Dr. Nwanze upon hearing the announcement. “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.”

IFAD has pioneered methods aimed at reversing gender inequality in more than 100,000 rural households in 8 African countries. The new methods help husbands and wives find ways to overcome poverty together, declaring a truce in the tug-of-war that usually prevails over ownership and control of productive resources.

Coming from a distinguished agricultural research background, Dr. 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 livelihood. 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.

Dr. Nwanze 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.

With 80 percent of farms run by smallholders, the key to transforming African agriculture lies in empowering the smallholder farmer, enabling rural value creation and providing jobs for rural youth.

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