University of Illinois bestows its 2019 International Alumni Award on ILRI chief Jimmy Smith

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has bestowed its Madhuri and Jagdish N Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement on Jimmy W Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Established in 2000, this annual university award recognizes its international alumni who are highly distinguished in their profession, have made outstanding contributions to government, humanity, science, art, or human welfare, and exemplify the strength of their education at Illinois. Smith is an alumnus of the university, where he completed both his master of science and doctoral degrees in animal sciences.

Smith received this award earlier this week (Wed, 20 Nov 2019) along with four other outstanding Illinois alumni, faculty and students who won the university’s International Achievement Awards in four other categories and whose exceptional work, service or scholarship has made significant global impact. All five awardees were honoured at a banquet on Wednesday evening co-hosted by the offices of the chancellor and provost, the Illinois Alumni Association and Illinois International during ‘International Week’, which celebrates the broad impact of international education, cultural exchange and scholarship uniquely experienced at Illinois and within its local community. The International Achievement Awards Banquet is a capstone event of the week.

A Guyanese-born Canadian citizen, Smith has served as director general of ILRI for the last eight years. ILRI, an African-based international research organization, is a member of a family of 15 CGIAR centres working for a food-secure world. Over its nearly five decades of operations, ILRI has focused its livestock research on sustainable development, helping to create ‘better lives through livestock’ across the developing world.

Before joining ILRI, Smith worked for the World Bank, in Washington, DC, where he led the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio. Working at the corporate level, he anchored the bank’s investments on sustainable livestock development and mitigating the threat of zoonotic diseases with pandemic potential.

Prior to his tenure at the World Bank, Smith held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Still earlier in his career, Smith worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), where he served as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa and later as director of its global program on crop-livestock-natural resource integration. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI-Trinidad) and the Livestock Development Company (LIDCO-Guyana).


In a speech at the Illinois university back in 2016, Jimmy Smith said the following, as reported in the Wisconsin Ag Connection website: ILRI Director Advocates for Broadened African Ag Development, 11/09/2016.

‘Returning to his alma mater as a distinguished speaker in the food security lecture series, Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute Dr. Jimmy Smith presented a case for broadened agricultural development in Africa.

Smith, who earned his Ph.D. in animal sciences at Illinois, began his lecture by paying tribute to his mentors during his education at Illinois, which he referred to as one of the most formative times in his life.

‘Smith argued that agricultural development in Africa must and can do much more than produce more food.

‘”It is not just about food security but economic development more broadly,” he explained.

‘Smith emphasized Africa’s untapped potential, including its people, land, and water, that could be employed to produce food that is currently imported. That production could then allow for importation of medicine and other products the continent cannot produce.

‘Addressing the “youth bulge” of population aged 15-24, he hoped that instead of taking boats to seek better lives, these youth can benefit from modernized and mechanized agriculture that will provide increased opportunities in Africa that do not exist today.

‘What Africa needs is a Marshall Plan in Agriculture,’ [Smith] said.

‘Large investments are required to transform African agriculture to employ young people and drive economic change, he said.

‘Smith hopes African governments and the international donor community can work together to make sustainable livestock development and efficient agricultural intensification top priorities, by ramping up the use of agricultural inputs and modern biotechnologies.

‘My wish is that the University of Illinois’ longstanding and distinguished agricultural research, training and partnerships, of which I am a grateful beneficiary, can be put to even greater use for Africa’s development, particularly that of its young people, who are hungry for jobs and livelihoods as well as food, and on whose ambitions the future of much, within and beyond Africa, depends,’ Smith said.

Smith said he looks forward to ‘seeing even more orange and blue around the world, especially in Africa,’ and invited everyone in the audience to visit him at ILRI. . . .


Listed below are all five of this year’s Illinois awardees—the international Illinois alumni, faculty and young alums participating in humanitarian work along with graduate and undergraduate students who have distinguished themselves in international service or achievement. ILRI is delighted to congratulate all of them!

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith (photo credit: ILRI; credit for the photos below: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).

Madhuri and Jagdish N Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute.

Established in 2000 with a generous gift from Dr Jagdish and Mrs Madhuri Sheth, this award recognizes international alumni who are highly distinguished in their profession, have made outstanding contributions to government, humanity, science, art, or human welfare, and exemplify the strength of their education at Illinois.

Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement

Larry Di Girolamo, Blue Waters Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Daniel Shapiro Professorial Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Established by the provost in 2001 and endowed by Dr Jagdish and Mrs Madhuri Sheth in 2006, this award recognizes an Illinois faculty member for exemplary accomplishments in teaching, research, and public service in the international arena.

Charles C Stewart International Young Humanitarian Award

Jeff Badu, serial entrepreneur and wealth multiplier.

Established in 2005, and endowed by Charles C Stewart in 2007, this award recognizes the accomplishments of an Illinois graduate whose dedicated international service exemplifies the highest ideals of selflessness and dedication to the welfare of communities outside of the United States.

Illinois International Graduate Achievement Award

Ananya Tiwari, co-anchor of the SwaTaleem Foundation, which is tackling child marriage in the remotest parts of India by keeping girls in school and building their socio-emotional skills.

This award recognizes an Illinois graduate student whose innovative and sustained international research or public service abroad has had a significant, societal impact.

Illinois International Undergraduate Achievement Award

Sadie Marks, a senior at Illinois studying agriculture and consumer economics with a concentration in public policy and law, is passionate about the role she can play in the international agriculture sector in future.

This award recognizes an Illinois undergraduate student (U.S. citizen or international) for a significant service or contribution resulting from their participation in an international study course, program, or project.