The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) recently joined numerous countries and organizations around the world that have taken time this year to pay tribute to the life and achievements of Dr. Norman Borlaug, holding a series of events from 8-12 July in Uganda to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday. The theme of the celebration was “Take it to the farmer,” in honor of Dr . Borlaug’s inspiring final words.
The SAA/Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) was founded in 1986 by Japanese philanthropist Ryoichi Sasakawa, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Borlaug, who was the president of SAA until his death in 2009.
Celebration events were attended by numerous dignitaries, including Yohei Sasakawa, son of the founder and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation; Professor Ruth Oniang’o, Chairperson of SAA and the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE); Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner of Rural Economy and Agriculture; Dr. John Hardman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Carter Center (representing President Carter); Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo, former President of Benin, SAA Board member and former Executive Director of the World Bank; Dr. Amit Roy, President and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center, or IFDC (Borlaug served on the IFDC board for 11 years); and Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation (which was founded by Borlaug). The Borlaug family was represented at the ceremony by his daughter Jeanie Borlaug Laube and his granddaughter Julie Borlaug. CIMMYT was represented by Adefris Teklewold, project leader of the Nutritious Maize in Ethiopia project, which is implemented in partnership with SG2000. Key members of the Ugandan government also took part, including Edward Ssekandi, Vice President of the Republic of Uganda; Gen. Moses Ali, Second Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda; and Tress Bucyanayandi, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of the Republic of Uganda.
The celebration began with a National Symposium on Training and Research for Agricultural Development at Makerere University, organized by SAA in collaboration with the university’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The topic of the symposium was Extension and Training for Agricultural Transformation and recognized the partnership between SAA and Makerere University in executing SAFE for many years through the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies. Topics included: extension for agricultural modernization; strengthening agricultural extension through mid-career training; how to attract youth in agriculture; the relevance of universities in agricultural transformation: going beyond the rhetoric of gender in agriculture; and more. Oniang’o chaired the symposium’s opening session about Borlaug’s legacy and said, “Dr. Borlaug believed in young people as future farmers and as advocates against hunger.”
A special video tribute to Borlaug – “Play it hard – the Borlaug Way” – was shown during the opening session, with words of acknowledgment for CIMMYT. This was followed by a video message from Carter. Representatives of organizations that had links to Borlaug through SAA honored his legacy.
Sasakawa recounted the story of how his father approached Borlaug to establish the SAA and persuaded him to be SAA president. Sasakawa described Borlaug as a “fearless fighter” and said that through SAA, he “not only helped farmers to increase their yield, but he also succeeded in planting the seed of confidence in their hearts.”
Another major event organized in connection with the centenary celebration was the Nile Agricultural and Trade Show at Jinja Town, which is located at the headwaters of the White Nile. The trade fair wasorganized by the Uganda National Farmers’ Federation in collaboration with SAA. The main objective of the trade show was to create a platform whereby different stakeholders – farmers, researchers, manufacturers, consumers, traders, policy makers, students and financial institutions – could meet to identify advances, challenges and comparisons related to Uganda’s agriculture sector. Schoolchildren also staged colorful drama and dance performances at the trade fair to pay tribute to Borlaug for his work with smallholder farmers around the world. Different agricultural technologies and inputs available for adoption were also displayed.
The main event of the commemoration was a two-day symposium held in Jinja, “Take it to the Farmer: The Borlaug Legacy for Uganda.” The symposium was attended by senior Ugandan governmental officials and focused on the enduring results of the Borlaug legacy for both Uganda and Africa. During the symposium, Ssekandi said of Borlaug, “His achievements and contribution to humanity is a long narrative of one man’s love for other people, as exhibited by his contribution to the eradication of hunger in Africa and Uganda.”
As part of the commemoration to honor Borlaug, competitions were held in schools around the country in areas where SAA is working. Students and faculty held debates on agricultural issues, drama and dance performances, and an essay challenge on the status and future of agriculture in Uganda.