Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu is pushing ahead with his ambitious programme to improve the lives of Nigeria’s rural population by providing information via an interactive radio service. Hundreds of thousands of farmers now benefit from the service, which is set to expand as Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio hires two more radio broadcasters, boosts the radio transmitter to 4.5 kilowatts and adds 15 more local government districts to its current broadcasting area of 17 districts.
The young Nigerian credits the rapid advance of his programme to the recognition and skills he has gathered from over 20 awards and fellowships he has won in recent years. “After I was chosen as a Rolex Laureate in 2010, I got a call from the governor of my state, and another from the wife of a governor of a state in northern Nigeria,” he says. As a result of this recognition, he has been selected as a member of a Nigerian government committee aiming to create 370,000 jobs for young people.
Ikegwuonu won several more awards in 2012. He was selected as the 21st Century Hope Award Winner for the Niigata Food Prize, which honours people under 45 years who are fighting to improve the world’s food supply. He was also selected by Britain’s Field Studies Council as a Darwin Scholar for 2012, participating in a two-week course in England (partially supported by Rolex) that was designed to assist people under 35 to become “better naturalists” in the spirit of Charles Darwin’s love of nature and observing the natural world.
“Part of the scholarship was learning in the field about how humans and animals can live together,” Ikegwuonu explains. “We also followed in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, visiting his family house in the country and the house in London where he wrote Origin of the Species, the key work on evolution. It was a great honour and I loved it.”
Throughout 2012, Ikegwuonu has been working with the World Bank on a series of radio broadcasts about climate change, disseminated widely in Nigeria. “The programmes have been heard by millions of people,” he says. “It’s all about knowledge, helping farmers to manage their crops and harvesting in difficult circumstances. Climate change is a fact of life in Nigeria. I’ve been working in the field and in some areas rainfall is triple the normal average, causing dangerous flooding and landslides.”Learn more about Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu