The World Food Prize Foundation

The Borlaug Blog

For the Good of Africa, and the World

By Jennifer Blanke
African Development Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development

I was in the House Chamber of the Iowa State Capitol when African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina was named the 46th World Food Prize Laureate in 2017.

Seeing the President receive the prize created by Dr. Norman Borlaug in 1986  – the same year that Dr. Borlaug first set foot on African soil - filled our African Development Bank delegation with pride. On this world stage, Dr. Adesina explained Africa’s fight to end hunger and poverty will be won by modernizing the continent’s agricultural sector.

It is no surprise that the President’s passionate message linking improved agricultural output to improving the quality of life for the people of Africa resonated so well: the late Dr. Borlaug was Dr. Adesina’s mentor. The two shared a vision of ushering in a “Green Revolution” across Africa, where Africans spend an estimated US$35 billion per year importing food despite having 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated land. In most African countries, 70% of the population lives in rural areas, Dr. Adesina told World Food Prize attendees. They depend on agriculture for a living, he said, stressing that their pathway out of poverty is tied to what happens to agriculture.

President Adesina, like Dr. Borlaug before him, spoke of a future Africa that is self-reliant and a net exporter of food. The two had such a close kinship for accelerating Africa’s agricultural productivity that President Adesina has sometimes been referred to as “Africa’s Norman Borlaug.”

In the time since President Adesina stood before global leaders in the agriculture, political and academic fields, the African Development Bank has been making strides toward realizing the vision to feed Africa. One highlight was the launch for our one billion dollar initiative called Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation, or TAAT. In partnership with the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, AGRA and other partners, TAAT is scaling up available agricultural technologies to reach millions of African farmers and primary processors. As well as helping Africa feed itself, these transformational activities are expected to increase family incomes and reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas.

Through TAAT, the Bank has supported the roll out of enhanced wheat seed varieties in Sudan, where temperatures often exceed 38°C and where heat stress is a major constraint to wheat production. Farmers who received TAAT-organized training on how to use heat-tolerant wheat seed varieties distributed through TAAT say they are expecting at least two or three times more yield than using normal seed.

TAAT’s maize compact, or working group, collaborated with 30 seed companies to produce 27,000 metric tons of drought-tolerant maize seed varieties for use by 2.6 million farmers. By the end of 2018, more than 1.6 million farmers received and planted these seeds.

Another Bank agricultural program gaining traction over the last year and a half is our Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones initiative. Already rolled out in Togo and Ethiopia, Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones bring virtually all elements of the agricultural value chain and attract investment within a holistic and integrated framework. By concentrating agro-processing activities within areas of high agricultural potential, the zones will boost productivity and integrate production, processing and marketing of selected commodities. In Togo, for example, the special agro-industrial processing zone project targets self-reliance for rice, maize, soybean and poultry. Aside from improving local and regional market access, the zones have a strong component of skills enhancement and will help create jobs. The Bank plans to roll out similar agro-industrial zone projects in at least eight countries in the next five years

In the coming weeks, some of the continent’s most promising, brightest young agriculture sector innovators will meet agribusiness companies, investors, and environmentalists, as well as private and public sector representatives for the African Youth Agricultural Forum and AgriPitch Competition in South Africa. Part of the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program, the forum and competition are designed to develop the next generation of “agripreneurs” for Africa. In Cape Town, the Bank will provide agripreneurs ‘boot camp’ style training, exposure to ‘deal room’ style networking and money prizes for their agricultural innovations. 

The pomp and circumstance, speeches and celebrations of the 2017 laureate award ceremony may be a distant memory, but the legacy of Dr. Norman Borlaug and mission of his mentee carry on. For the good of Africa, and the world – at the African Development Bank we remain committed to realize their vision.

07/01/2019 8:00 AM |Add a comment
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