Remembering Olatunji Adenola

We report with great sadness the death of Pastor Olatunji Adebowale Adenola, who passed away on March 22, 2021.

Pastor Adenola was the sitting president of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) and served on the CGIAR Research Program on Maize Independent Steering Committee (MAIZE-ISC) from 2013-2016. He was a staunch advocate and important practitioner of R4D in of Nigeria’s maize agri-food systems. Privately, he was also a proficient gardener and a hockey enthusiast.

“Pastor Adenola was passionate about improving the livelihoods of maize smallholders of West Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular,” said Prasanna Boddupalli, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE).  “He provided excellent inputs during MAIZE-ISC meeting for increasing the impact of the work undertaken by the MAIZE team and strived to enhance partnerships.”

Born in Nigeria’s Ogun state in 1947, Pastor Adenola showed an early inclination for the natural sciences, pursuing studies in physics, chemistry and biology as an upper school student. He received a B.Sc. with honors in Agriculture from the University of Ife before pursuing an M.S.C. in Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

Among Pastor Adenola’s earliest contact with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) was a diploma course in wheat produce he pursued through CIMMYT in 1973-1974.

In the early 1980s—after having worked on wheat production for Nigeria’s National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP)—Pastor Adenola was appointed Maize Team leader and Assistant Coordinator for the National Rice/Maize Centre. As such, he applied the strategies and lessons learned from the NAFPP experience to maize production in Nigeria.

Pastor Adenola (fourth from left) with members of MAIZE- and WHEAT-ISC at a celebration of CIMMYT’s 50th Anniversary in 2016. From left to right: Shirish Barwale, Prasanna Boddupalli, Marianne Banzinger, Pastor Olatunji Adenola, Mike Robinson, Rita Mumm, Abebe Menkir, Felister Makini and David Watson. (Photo: Claudia Velasco/CIMMYT)

Pastor Adenola went on to serve on various national and international agricultural R4D projects in the country, before being appointed director of the National Strategic Food Reserve in 2003. His retirement from this post 2007 did not slow him down. As president of MAAN and member of MAIZE-ISC, Pastor Adenola worked closely with the Nigerian government and CGIAR centers in the country to support R4D in maize agri-food systems.

“Pastor Adenola was a remarkable leader of the Maize Association of Nigeria for many years and served the association with honesty, integrity and vision, helping Nigerian farmers take full advantage of many Federal Government of Nigeria Initiatives. The initiative to double maize production in Nigeria he championed in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and key national partners has recorded significant achievements,” said Abebe Menkir, maize breeding lead at IITA. 

Menkir added, “Pastor Adenola was a vibrant, enthusiastic person with brilliant ideas who always advocated for agricultural research and novel technology transfer to farmers in his country. His spirit, and words of kindness and goodness will stay alive in the hearts and minds of his family and of us all.”

Maize, Nigeria