Pedro A. Sanchez is Research Professor of Tropical Soils at the University of Florida Soil & Water Sciences Department and core faculty of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems. Prior to that, he was Director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center and Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
Sanchez has written groundbreaking books on tropical soil science and hunger, and has received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), Guelph University (Canada), Ohio State University and North Carolina State University. Sanchez was anointed Chief by the Luo in western Kenya with the name of Odera Akang’o, and by the Ikaram of southern Nigeria with the name of Atunluse. He is the 2002 World Food Prize laureate, a 2004 MacArthur Fellow, and was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2012. At his induction, the president of the Academy summarized why he was elected: “Sanchez has led path-breaking research on soil management for improved food production in the tropical world. His work has influenced research in agronomy, ecology, and changed the way technology is used to increase food production.”
On September 12, 2009 in his deathbed, Norman Borlaug´s last thoughts were about worries about Africa. At his funeral at Texas A&M several of us attending said “we are on it, Norm”. Tremendous changes has taken place in 12 or so relatively well-governed countries since then. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa-AGRA has brought together an amorphous group of public and private institutions, smallholder farmers, political leaders, shop keepers, small agribusiness men and women, bankers, IT specialists, donor agencies, and scientists working at national institutions, universities and CGIAR centers together in a loose coalition that is transforming smallholder agriculture into agriculture as a business.
As a result average maize yields in Sub Saharan Africa have increased from 1 ton/ha in 2005 to 1.75 tons/ha in 2015, and the equivalent in many other crop and livestock products. Work on crop germplasm improvement has expanded to cover all aspects of the seed value chain, including indigenous seed companies. Work on soil fertility replenishment is also beginning to take shape along a fertilizer value chain that includes soil maps, databases, bringing the laboratory to the farm to produce fertilizer recommendations that a new group of blending plants can produce, financing, agrodealers and IT-based extension. The overall goal of increasing cereal yields to 3 tons/ha is now in sight, and coupled together with better governance and enlightened leadership will make Africa south of the Sahara a positive and major world economic force, with well-fed and healthy people.