Agriculture sector: Develop capacity for research

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Prof. Musibau Bamikole, the University of Benin (UNIBEN), has called for adequate funding and capacity building for effective research coordination to develop the agriculture sector in Nigeria.

Bamikole made the call at the 61st Annual General Conference of the Association of Deans of Agriculture in Nigerian Universities (ADAN) at the University of Benin, Edo on Tuesday.

The theme of the three-day conference is: “Breaking Nigeria’s monolithic Economy through Agriculture’’.

He said that the call became imperative because the potential of agriculture in the country had not been fully ultilised.

He expressed regrets that government had neglected agriculture as a viable alternative to the dwindled price of crude oil globally.

“It is rather regrettable that agriculture that has been the mainstay of our economy before the discovery of crude oil  and has become a sleeping giant with the huge resources and potential yet to be harnessed.

“You will agree that the giant is still sleeping and the situation needs to be rescued,’’ he said.

Bamikole said “we need a serious research revolution to transform the sector.”

He said that research was central to sustainable development and government must continue to play key role in this regard, especially in the area of provision of adequate funding and modern equipment for research.

“These are needed to build the necessary capacity that will be based on technological innovations to generate knowledge and technology for the country’s agriculture sector,’’ he said.

According to him, today reference is being made to Brazilian agricultural sector, which has transformed from the condition of basic food importer to one of the world’s largest producer and exporter.

“The secret of Brazil’s success in agriculture is research which Brazilian government has given priority through adequate funding.

“Brazil took the bull by the horn through adequate funding, provision of sophisticated research facilities and capacity building to develop a genuinely Brazilian model of tropical agriculture and livestock.

“This will overcome the barriers that limited the production of food, fibre and fuel in their country.

“We can achieve the same as Nigeria,’’ Bamikole said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between ADAN and Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (YISA) in Nigeria.

Mr Ogirinye Innocent, the Founder and National Coordinator of YISA-Nigeria, said the objective of the MoU was to change the mindset of young people, especially unemployed graduates.

“These are people who are of the erroneous opinion that agriculture was mainly for ageing peasant farmers, whose best tools are hand hoes and cutlasses.’’

He said YISA, therefore, came up with the Agripreneurship Incubation and Mentorship (AIM) programme, its technical corporation and flagship empowerment programme with ADAN to help change this mindset.

“It is designed for the students of Faculties and Colleges of Agriculture in Nigeria to build the capacity of the students in practical agribusiness skills.

“It is also to create agribusiness hubs within the school environment in order to produce successive generation of active players for sustainable agriculture in Nigeria upon graduation,’’ he said.

NAN reports that eight prominent Nigerians were honoured for their contributions to development of agriculture in Nigeria.

The awardees are Chief John Oyegun, National Chairman, All Progressives Congress party, Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Prof. Farady Orumwense, Vice Chancellor of UNIBEN and Dr Godwin Ehigiamusoe, Chief Executive Officer, LAPO.

The others are Saturday Uwuilekhue, NDDC Commissioner, Edo, Mrs Catherine Agba, the Managing Director, Uzanu farms; Tegwuolo Mujaperuo, Mujaks Agro-Allied Product Ltd., and Osayamwen Osaigbovo, the best agriculture student in the Faculty of Agriculture in UNIBEN.