Minister of Agriculture on Research to Feed Africa

Akinwumi Adesina, Honourable Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria

Akinwumi Adesina, Honourable Minister of
Agriculture of Nigeria


Speech Delivered by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Honourable Minister of

Agriculture of Nigeria at the High Policy Dialogue on “Research to Feed Africa”,

September 1, 2014, Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 


Excellencies, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Good morning!

I wish to thank the President of IDRC, Jean Lebel for inviting me to give this key note

address, and Pascal Sanginga, my former brilliant PhD student, for organizing this

session. I thank you both for your strong support for the Africa Green Revolution

Forum (AGRF) when I approached you for the inaugural Forum in 2009. Here we are,

years after and AGRF is going strong!

IDRC has been a key supporter of the green revolution in Africa, with globally

renowned leadership and support for decades on research, human capacity

development, especially to ensure that benefits of research reach farmers, including

women, and those in marginal areas. Your work at IDRC, and those of other

development partners and national governments and research centers present today,

are more crucial than ever before.

The population of Africa is estimated to reach 2.4 billion by 2050. With rising

population, demand for food will increase. The challenge will be how to raise

agricultural productivity, feed this population, while not degrading the environment.

The challenge is enormous: Sub-Saharan Africa will need to increase crop production

by 260% in order to feed this projected population. This cannot be achieved unless

there are significantly higher levels of investment in agricultural research, science and

technology. That is why this policy dialogue organized by the International

Development Research Center (IDRC) is timely.

I will be sharing with you my perspectives on some of what is needed, as a researcher

and policy maker, drawing on my personal experiences of over 25 years in the drive

to ensure that Africa feeds itself and contributes to feeding the world.

Africa has enormous agricultural potential. About 65% of the arable lands left to feed

the 9 billion people in the world by 2050 are in Africa. We must unlock this potential.

To do so, we must make a fundamental shift in how we see agriculture. Agriculture

must not be seen as a development program. Agriculture is a business. And

agricultural research must take this business perspective. Policy makers too must

change and develop policies to take technologies to scale for farmers.

A great part of what I do today as Minister of Agriculture, in feeding the most

populous African nation, draws from my research experience and practical lessons

learnt in the field. Early in my career at the International Crops Research Institute for

the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in the earl

charged with promoting high yielding short statured varieties of sorghum to farmers.

Convinced we had a solution for farmers, we went to Southern Mali to promote the

new high yielding varieties. The head of the village took us on a tour around the

village and opened one granary after the other and behold they were filled to the brim

with sorghum. To him the problem was not additional production but how to get

market for the sorghum, as he asked whether ICRISAT buys sorghum. It was a lesson

that changed my perspective on how to achieve impacts with research. What mattered

here was not the supply driven technical change but the development of markets for


farmer using the mobile phone

farmer using the mobile phone


Our focus must be on the imperative of creating markets for farmers, taking a whole

value chain, and investing in new product development to add value to crops. Unless

this is given priority farmers will take up new technologies and price for their farm

products will decline. From that experience, as researchers we worked on how to use

sorghum for different products to expand markets. Today in Nigeria, Uganda and

Kenya sorghum is used to replace malt in the brew

of the Foundation, and later from its own funds. After four years, the bank found it

had lost only $4,500. We had proved a point: that lending to small farmers is not as

risky as Banks think in Africa. The Bank eventually lent $20 million of its own

money to farmers and built up a portfolio of investments to support the banana value

chain in Uganda.

Akinwumi Adesina, Honourable Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria  on a farm

Akinwumi Adesina, Honourable Minister of
Agriculture of Nigeria
on a farm

As Vice President at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, I led a team of my

colleagues to use innovative financing instruments to leverage banks in Kenya,

Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Mozambique to lend over $100 million to small

farmers and input retailers. In Nigeria, we designed the risk sharing facility for the

Central Bank of Nigeria, which leveraged $3.5 billion of lending from the balance

sheets of banks to agriculture value chains. In all these cases, the default rates by

farmers and agribusinesses has been less than 2-3%, and in the case of Nigeria it has

been 0% for the past three years.

The lesson is clear: greater focus should be put into the use of innovative finance

instruments to reduce the risks financial institutions face in lending to agriculture.

Solving this financial imperative will help drive the uptake of products of agricultural

research, raise returns to agricultural research investments and drive sustainable

growth of the agriculture sector. Science and technologies alone are not enough. We

must also fix financial markets to make science work for the poor.

All across Africa, many gains are being made in the use of improved agricultural

technologies, from high yielding bean varieties in Rwanda, sorghum and millet

hybrids in Niger and Mali, drought and striga tolerant maize in Ethiopia, Kenya,

Tanzania and Zambia. The green revolution is ramping up farm production. But a

significant share of the expanding farm harvest is lost due to poor post harvest

systems, and estimates show that this can be as high as 30-40% depending on the

crop. The total annual post-harvest grain losses in Sub-Saharan Africa have been

estimated at $ 4 billion. Reducing these losses will boost agricultural output and food

security. There is need now for greater research investments to improve product

handing, storage, and post-harvest processing and food safety so that the benefits of

research reach consumers.

No challenge is greater for research in Africa today than how to support farmers to

adapt to climate change. Climate change will substantially reduce yields of crops,

livestock and fisheries, and lead to decline in farm output, farm incomes and worsen

poverty and vulnerabilities. There is need to develop heat, drought and flood tolerant

crops, forages that can cope with heat stress, animals with high stress tolerance levels,

while policies should focus on improving adaptation for farmers. Improved land and

water management will become even more important, as well as the use of agroecological

approaches. It is imperative for governments, researchers and the wider

development community to build resilience into agricultural value chains. Public

policies should support farmers to take up crop and li

beyond the reach of many poor farmers. We must not abandon farmers in the face of

climate change.

Despite all the gains being made, malnutrition remains a perennial problem. Eighty

percent of the world’s stunted children live in just 14 countries, of which eight are

in Africa. Today there exist bio-fortified crops such as pro-vitamin A cassava, orange

flesh sweet potato, high iron beans, which are being grown by farmers in Nigeria,

Rwanda, Kenya and Mozambique. Of the 1.5 million farming households now

growing bio-fortified food crops, 1.4 million are in Africa. So, the challenge is no

longer the science of bio-fortification. We know it works. Our challenge as policy

makers now is to build up demand and scale up bio-fortified crops to reach millions of

households. To achieve this, we must address supply and demand side issues,

including policy, institutional, regulatory and financing of nutrition.

The future of Africa depends on what we do with our kids today. A hungry child

cannot learn and a malnourished kid will become brain impaired, with low-income

earnings in the future. The greatest contributor to economic growth is not physical

infrastructure but brainpower or “grey matter infrastructure”. We must ensure that no

child in Africa goes hungry.

Africa has come a long way with successes in the transformation of its agriculture

sector through agricultural research. The seeds of change are everywhere all across

the continent. With the remarkable political support of the Africa Union, restated

commitments of African Presidents during the Malabo Summit to give priority to

agriculture, dynamism of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, and

commitment of the CGIAR and our national agricultural research systems, Africa will

feed itself. National governments, development finance institutions and donors should

significantly increase support for agricultural research. And we must build

partnerships with farmers – especially women and youth. We must support agriculture

– it pays!

As we build greater farm harvests and raise incomes of farmers, Africa’s rural

economies will boom. Millions of people will be lifted out of poverty into wealth.

Then you will hear Africa’s children singing: “better at last, better at last, thank God

Almighty our lives are better at last”. Together, we can make this happen.

Thank you and God bless you all.


Speech downloaded from Here

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