Young CEC Member Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu Wins Rolex Award for Enterprise

By creating an interactive, rural radio service, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu wants to improve the lives of farmers in Nigeria. The CEC member is a winner in the Rolex Awards for Enterprise Young Laureates Programme.

Winner of Young Laureate Awards from Rolex, CEC member Nnaemeka Ikegwuono Photo: Rolex Young Laureates

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu joined the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication in May 2010. When asked why he was interested in becoming a CEC member, Nnaemeka replied, "I wanted to belong to IUCN CEC, a network through which I believe I will gain knowledge and share experiences. I wanted a network where valuable ideas for communicating environmental conservation will be available to me."  He was one of five Young Laureates of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise to receive the award in a ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 11 November 2010.

Rolex Young Laureate: Profile

Growing up in Nigeria, traditionally a farming nation, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu spent his after-school hours raising poultry and cattle. After high school, as he participated in youth and citizens' associations helping farmers, Ikegwuonu quickly became aware that the rural community had little access to information about farming practices and environmental issues. In 2003, he founded the Smallholders Foundation to provide the rural community with information via the radio on contemporary agricultural techniques and environmental conservation. Ikegwuonu, who has a bachelor of arts in history and international studies and a master's degree in cooperation and development, is becoming known as a change-maker who fights poverty using new interactive technology.

About Nnaemeka's Project

Over 90 per cent of Nigeria's population of 150 million lives on less than US$2 a day. Millions of those living below the poverty line are small farmers, many of them cut off from vital sources of information that could help them improve their farming methods and raise their living standards. Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu wants to build on the achievements of his Smallholders Foundation which is already broadcasting 10 hours daily to 250,000 listeners on Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio by establishing a communications network reaching 3.5 million farmers in almost 5,000 villages in his own region, Imo State, in south-east Nigeria.

Not only will farmers receive advice on a wide range of topics from sustainable farming practices to HIV/Aids and opening and running a bank account they will also be able to contribute information, thanks to interactive mobile radios, known as AIR devices. These small, solar-powered machines allow listeners to send voice messages, free of charge, to radio stations, which can, in turn, broadcast them. Imo State's farmers will have a platform to share experiences, ask questions and receive answers in their own language. Ikegwuonu's long-term ambition is to extend the service to other regions of his country.

The Young Laureates Programme

The Young Laureates Programme, an expansion of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, fosters innovation in the next generation. Launched in 2009, the initiative supports visionary young men and women at a critical juncture in their careers, enabling them to implement inventive ideas that tackle the world’s most pressing issues in five areas: science and health, applied technology, exploration, the environment and cultural preservation.

For more information, contact Nnaemeka at


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