Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu is a leading social entrepreneur and Executive Director of The Smallholders Foundation, a social development organization based in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria which he founded in 2003 at the age of 21. The organization promotes sustainable agricultural development and environmental conservation beneficial to rural poor small farmers, through educational radio programs and field practical demonstrations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and International Studies form Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria and a Masters in Development and Cooperation from Institute for Advanced Studies, The University of Pavia, Italy.
Through his organization owned community radio station, The Smallholder Farmers Rural Radio (Farm 98.0 FM), Nnaemeka develops and broadcasts 10 hours daily agricultural, environmental management and market information radio programs in the local Igbo Language radio which informs, educates and improves the economic and environmental management capacity of 250,000 small farmer listeners living in 3 local catchment areas of Imo State, Nigeria. Since, 2007 65% of his radio program present listeners have increased their agricultural yield by 50% and their household income by 45%.
Through his Future Farmers Program, he imparts sustainable agricultural, environmental management, entrepreneurship and financial management skills on young people through the establishment of ultra-modern School and Community Gardens in secondary schools and rural communities across Nigeria. Young people earn lifetime skills by receiving practical training in marking and laying out of garden, soil preparation, planting of crops, rearing of livestock, harvesting of garden products, marketing of garden products and management of garden profits which they use to become self-employed. Since 2008, Nnaemeka have trained 4,500 students and established 10 school gardens in 5 states of Nigeria. 1,736 students trained have built gardens at home, increasing their household income/production by 55% and becoming ultimately self-employed in agriculture. 481 have spinned off from these home garden to establish profitable agribusinesses. 137 young people have gone off to study in agriculture and environmental management education at tertiary institutions.
Nnaemeka, is an Alumni of the prestigious Youth Encounter on Sustainability (YES) Braunwald, Switzerland - 2008, Global Fellow YouthActionNet - International Youth Foundation - 2008, Ashoka Fellow 2008, Caux Scholar – Initiatives for Change Switzerland and USA - 2009, Fellow Global Social Benefit Incubator of Santa Clara University, California USA - 2009 and a Clinton Global Initiative University, Outstanding Commitment Award Recipient - 2009. He is a Winner of the YouthActionNet/Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Awards 2009, Winner of the World Bank Development Marketplace 2009 on Climate Change Adaptation, Laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise – Young Laureates Program 2010, Winner 2010 UNDP Equator Prize.
Furthermore, he is a Winner of the World Youth Summit Awards (WYSA) 2010, Fellow of the Unreasonable Institute, Fellow Rainer Arnhold Fellowship Program of Mulago Foundation and Laureate of the World Innovation Summit in Education (WISE) 2010 of Qatar Foundation. Nnaemeka is a Winner of the 2011 Architect of the Future Awards by Waldzell Institute Austria. A 2011 New Leader; Cran Montana Forum and was named Nigeria’s Young Person of the Year – 2011 by the The Future Awards Nigeria. He is a 2011 Young Leader; BMW Foundation Young Leaders Forum and was listed as 100 Most Creative People in the World by Fast Company USA. He won the German government Green Talent Awards 2011 and the Energy Globe National Awards 2011.
He is a member of The International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance, Society for Conservation Biology, Society for Wetland Scientists, IUCN Commission on Education and Communication, IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, Freshwater Action Network and Global Forest Coalition. He is also a member of CIVICUS, Chatham House, Educating Rural People Partnership, Amnesty International and International Rural Network.
His work has been profiled in major local and international media, including TIMES Magazine, Fast Company Magazine, Africa Link Magazine and African Leadership Magazine.
Nnaemeka is an international Speaker at conferences and forums. He spoke at the Agricultural Infrastructural Development; POTICO III Forum of January 2010 organized by US Embassy Nigeria and Bank of Industry. He facilitated the World Bank Training on Climate Change in Agriculture for FADAMA III Program Managers from 36 states of Nigeria in May 2010. He also spoke on the “Challenges and Opportunities of the Global Energy and Food Crises on smallholders in Nigeria” during the Common Future Forum organized by Volkswagen Foundation and Mercator Foundation in Essen, Germany November 2010.
He spoke on behalf of NGOs from the Global South before over 150 Heads of State and Government at the UN High Level Summit on Biodiversity in September 2010. He also spoke before 3,000 Swiss students from EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland at the Virtual Enterprises Presentation November 2010. Nnaemeka facilitated the World Bank/AICAD/JICA Training of Trainers on Communication for Climate Change Adaptation for university lecturers in Kenya - January 2011 and the World Bank Training of Youth CBOs on Communication for Climate Change Adaptation in Kenya - January 2011.