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DAA: Akinwumi A. Adesina

Akinwumi Adesina

Akinwumi A. Adesina

Nairobi, Kenya | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2008

Raised in rural Nigeria, words Akinwumi Adesina heard as a youngster were those he took to heart and to the world: “If you ever become someone important,” his father urged, “take the opportunity to help the poor.” Adesina seized the directive to eliminate poverty in Africa through increasing his home country’s agricultural productivity. “I’m running against time, and must make things happen very quickly,” says Adesina. “Poverty in Africa must not be managed, but eliminated.” The race began in 1988, when Adesina was awarded a post-doctoral Rockefeller Foundation fellowship — an opportunity that launched a twenty-year career in international agricultural development. Along the path, he has directed every skill and resource to rural farmers who eke their living from the harsh African soil. In 2007, Adesina launched the Alliance For A Green Revolution in Africa, a bold, multi-billion dollar initiative of the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. As Vice President, he leads teams responsible for development of 10,000 rural agro-dealers in 13 African countries; develops and implements strategies for solving Africa’s soil fertility problems; and creates programs to address market, trade, and policy issues. “A total of 250 million Africans live on less than one-dollar a day,” Adesina says. “They have land and labor, but lack the government’s support.” Challenges appear straightforward — linking rural farmers to seed and fertilizer, and supporting their efforts with necessary infrastructure and subsidies. But the path to progress is intricate, requiring presentation of innovative economic development models to African presidents, governments, and donor agencies and, literally, cultivating his country’s agriculture program from the ground up. And although Adesina frequently brainstorms in lofty company, he credits his wife, Grace, as the inspiration for his best ideas. “My graduate training at Purdue — among the world’s leading universities in agriculture — was the best investment I ever made, and I’ve carried the tradition and good works of its people with me. ”