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Akinwumi Adesina, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, says he is determined to help young Africans farmers become billionaires unlike his father and grandfather who “became so poor farming”.
Adesina, currently President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), said this at a luncheon during the World Food Prize-Borlaug Dialogue Symposium on Friday.
According to a statement signed by Jennifer Patterson, Principal Communication Officer at AfDB, the luncheon follows the award of the 2017 World Food Prize to Adesina in Iowa, USA, where he announced his dedication of the $250,000 prize money to set up a fund fully dedicated to providing financing for African youth in agriculture to feed the continent.
“The World Food Prize-Africa Institute will support young agripreneurs, whom we will call Borlaug-Adesina Fellows,” Adesina announced while delivering his laureate address at the luncheon.
“This will allow us to strategically continue Dr. Norman Borlaug’s legacy of taking agricultural technologies to the farmers, and my philosophy of promoting and engaging agriculture as a business.
“The Youth of Africa are the future of the continent and to them I pledge my support.
“They will take agriculture as a business. They will make agriculture ‘cool’. I fully expect the future millionaires and billionaires of Africa to come from agriculture.”
Adesina narrated how his father and grandfather had to work as labourers on other people’s farm because they could not raise enough from their own farms to be able to cater to their families.
“This is my story. My father and grandfather were farmers, and became so poor farming they had to work as part-time labourers on other people’s farms,” Adesina said.
“My father told me that farming did not pay. It was through a benefactor that he made it out of the village to get the benefit of education.
“It was that golden opportunity, with a lot of sacrifices that gave me the benefit of an education and today, by God’s grace, has given me an incredible opportunity to stand on the global stage to receive the World Food Prize.
“I also hear the voices rising out of rural Africa, saying, ‘Come here and help us get out of poverty’.
“This ‘agriculture gospel’ was first preached by Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who created the World Food Prize, for he heard the voices of a billion people and, through his dedicated work, delivered a green revolution across Asia that fed a billion people.”
Motivated by Adesina’s gesture, other donors made additional contributions to the fund, raising the initial $250,000 to $600,000.
John M. Harrington III of Sheffield Corporation matched Adesina’s prize money with an additional $250,000, while John Ruan III, Chairman of the World Food Prize Foundation, pledged to contribute $100,000.
This brings to US $600,000 the amount now available for Adesina’s proposed fund to grow youth in agriculture and agricultural business.
Adesina praised John M. Harrington III and John Ruan III for their donations, and for supporting his desire for a new deal for young African farmers.
The African Development Bank, under Adesina’s leadershi,p is focused on accelerating investments to get younger commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs into agriculture through a youth in agriculture initiative termed ‘ENABLE Youth’ (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth).
The bank will also empower women and push for greater access to finance for women.
Adesina is optimistic that these initiatives will help to lift millions out of poverty in Africa and into wealth.