By JIMOH BABATUNDE
Nigeria took center stage yesterday at the ongoing Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Maputo, Mozambique as a young Nigerian, Mr. Nnaemeka C. Ikegwuonu, founder of the Smallholders Foundation, was named one of the winners of the 2013 YARA prize award.
Ikegwuonu was awarded the prize for his entrepreneurial work of using radio as transmitter of sustainable agricultural development and environmental conservation beneficial to rural poor small farmers in the Imo State, Nigeria.
He was named winner alongside, Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda of South Africa, for the prize launched by YARA to recognize outstanding contributions to African agriculture.
The 2013 Yara Prize specifically focused on young women and men who made particular effort within agriculture paying particular attention to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Jorgen Ole Haslestad, YARA´s President, said the Yara Prize for a Green Revolution in Africa recognizes significant contributions to the reduction of hunger and poverty in Africa.
The Prize, according to him, honours endeavors that increase food productivity, security or availability through improvements in food systems, advancements in sustainable agriculture and development of local markets – and encourages innovation and entrepreneurship.
“The Yara Prize was awarded annually in the years 2005–2009 and reinstituted in 2012 in connection with the African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha, Tanzania. During the first five years the Yara Prize was awarded to eight individuals and one organization representing seven countries in total.
“The laureates represent a diverse range of African society engaged in the African Green Revolution: entrepreneurs and scientists, activists and organizers, businessmen and politicians.”
He explained that the Yara Prize Committee for this year selected two prominent African laureates for their work for African farmers and for the continent’s green revolution.
“The award recognizes their effective entrepreneurial work which has spread knowledge that has inspired smallholder farmers and youth to improve their lives, and their policy dialogue and advocacy which has enabled change in the African agricultural sector.
“Both laureates have, through personal commitment and special efforts, translated ideas on the development of African agriculture into impactful results in their respective areas of work. They are both examples of the can-do spirit and drive that is playing a vital role in transforming agriculture in Africa.
Receiving the award, Mr. Ikegwuonu said his Smallholders Foundation develops and broadcasts 10 hours of educational radio programs daily to 250,000 listeners. The radio programs are held in the local Igbo language.
While promising to dedicate the prize money to youth development through farming, he disclosed that since 2007, 65 percent of his radio program listeners have increased their agricultural yield by 50 percent and their household income by 45 percent.
Mr. Ikegwuonu said he has a goal of reaching 3.5 million farmers in almost 5000 villages in South East, adding that since 2008, 4500 students have been trained and 10 school gardens of Nigeria have been established.
Through the Future Farmers Program, Mr. Ikegwuonu imparts sustainable agricultural, environmental management, entrepreneurship and financial management skills to young people through the establishment of the School and Community Gardens in secondary schools and rural communities across Nigeria