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First Africa food prize awarded to Dr. Kanayo for improving smallholder farmers

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Nairobi: President of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, on Wednesday was awarded the first Africa Food Prize especially for his outstanding leadership and passionate advocacy in putting Africa's smallholder farmers at the center of the global agricultural agenda, according to a statement issued on the sideline of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) taking place in Nairobi, Kenya.

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

It said that Dr  Nwanze has been recognized especially for his individual leadership, but also for the results of successful efforts at IFAD in the years he has been at the helm.

IFAD, a specialized United Nations agency and International Financial Institution dedicated to eradicating rural poverty, is not the same organization today that it was in 2009, when Nwanze took office as President, the statement said.

Despite a major global economic downturn the award's recipient succeeded in growing the Fund´s overall resources, with significant increases in commitments from member states, it said.

While congratulating the laureate, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said: "Dr. 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."

“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,” Dr Kalibata was quoted as saying.

Latest official reports indicate that as 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 Dr Nwanze's tenure to $2.7 billion in 2015—benefiting more than 75 million rural people.

In addition, Dr 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. With only six country offices in Africa a decade ago, these now number 20 in Africa with a total of 40 globally.

The local offices have been key in reshaping IFAD’s business model, increasing farmers’ access to resources and improving the deployment of funds to projects, the statement said.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr Nwanze  explained that the  idea behind opening more country offices is to bring IFAD closer to the people it serves, not only to motivate our own staff, but to more effectively work with rural communities, learning from them and adapting our investments to transform the environment in which they live and work.

One of the cited achievement example, is a project in Senegal that started in 2008 with helping wean consumers away from expensive, imported staples by supporting the production, processing, and preparation of local foods.

Participating farmers now regularly supply their products to stores across the country and, to this end, have formed partnerships with private companies. IFAD’s on-the-ground presence has allowed for regular follow-ups and the project has now benefited more than 250,000 people, mainly by creating jobs and boosting incomes, the statement said.

Moreover, the same report indicates that Under Dr. 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," the statement said.

It is said that the professional journey that led Dr. Nwanze to become a distinguished development leader started 40 years ago in agricultural research.

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 said

The former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo who is the Chairperson of Africa Food Prize Committee, noted that it was now quite clear what must be done to transform Africa´s agriculture and feed this continent sustainably.

“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,” M. Obasanjo said.



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