Champions to end global hunger
At the recent World Food Prize event held in Iowa in the US, Spore correspondent Emmanuel Maduka was selected as a Fellow of the Borlaug Adesina Fellowship for Agriculture. Here, he tells us what this acknowledgement means for both his personal and professional ambitions.
You have just been selected as one of nine young Hunger Fighter Fellows of the Borlaug Adesina (BA) Fellowship out of 1,300 applicants. How did you come to be selected and what will your role entail?
I was initially motivated to apply for the BA Fellowship due to the fact that it was founded by Dr Akin Adesina and is led by his wife, Grace Adesina; these are two phenomenal figures with an undying passion for agricultural development and real trailblazers in the sector. Also, the fellowship seeks to develop a new generation of young food and agribusiness entrepreneurs, which aligns with my passion for promoting agriculture as a business to unleash wealth for poor farmers.
My application for the Fellowship highlighted my agri-processing company, LifePro Food Mills, which produces affordable and highly nutritious food products using an indigenous crop – African Locust beans. The company aims to help end malnutrition with our protein-rich bean products, as well as empower local rural women who work with us to pre-process the beans. Through this work, they earn six times what they would generate from doing the same thing on their own, so it’s enabling them to invest in their families’ and their own wellbeing.
As a Hunger Fighter, I understand that what we (youths) do in food and agriculture will determine Africa’s competitiveness on global markets in the coming years. In 30 years, Africa will have the largest population of young people in the world and, therefore, what we do now will go some way towards determining the future of food. The goal of the Hunger Fighters is to build on the legacy of Dr Norman Borlaug and on the passion of Dr Akin Adesina by becoming champions to end global hunger through our activities in the agricultural space. The Fellowship will foster this by providing opportunities for us to learn, attain global exposure, and connect with international agricultural research centres and food and agribusiness companies worldwide. For LifePro Food Mills, the fellowship will better position me to scale our company and increase our impacts.
As well as setting up your own agribusiness, you are an agricultural journalist and editor of Agrostrides magazine – how did you come to have two such different careers?
I see them as different approaches geared towards the same aim of striving to achieve food and nutrition security; one works towards advocacy and raising awareness, while the other, towards creating a product to help address the issue.
I initially founded Agrostrides magazine in a bid to create a niche for like-minded young people who have studied agricultural extension and communication and wished to disseminate ag-based knowledge in an engaging way. The magazine’s format, which can be downloaded online, is presented in a way that fits into the lifestyle of young people. Its content highlights the innovations and businesses of youth in the agricultural space and aims to inspire others into action. Agriculture is sexy and profitable, and I wanted to show this by producing a publication that is both creative and stylish.
It was whilst working on the magazine that I realised how many avenues the agriculture sector presents towards solving inherent problems of food and hunger, whilst providing economic opportunities across the value chain. This is what led me, in 2018, to cofound LifePro Food Mills, which has social entrepreneurship and innovation at its core.
You first interacted with WRENmedia by becoming a correspondent for Spore – how is this different to writing for your own magazine?
My interaction with WRENmedia as a correspondent for Spore isn’t so different for writing for Agrostrides – in fact it is an exciting opportunity to further highlight the impacts of more agricultural entrepreneurs in a global magazine. I think Spore represents the best information resource on agriculture you can get, so it is disappointing that there will be no further editions from 2020, but I am glad to have contributed to the practical, diverse and vivid stories and information. I hope that similar, creative approaches of informative agricultural storytelling will be introduced to continue on from where Spore leaves off.
As a young African passionate about agriculture, this could be seen as quite unusual – what would you like to do to inspire others to get involved and make a difference in the sector?
Being a young African passionate about agriculture used to be quite unusual – due to the image of drudgery and backbreaking work previously associated with the sector, coupled with the fact it is dominated by the older generation. However, as more youths like myself have become better informed on the wider opportunities of the food value chain, there has been a considerable increase in the participation of young people in the sector, especially in the areas of processing/value addition and digitalisation.
I am just one of millions actively engaged in this sector in Africa; I understand its challenges and have created something innovative in order improve the situation of those around me, leveraging technology to foster agricultural development and investment. I hope that building a sustainable, scalable and economically viable agribusiness that creates employment is enough to motivate more young people to engage with the sector.