Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo is an animal research scientist and the Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Secretariat, based in Accra Ghana. He was former Head of Agriculture and Food Security, African Union Commission in Addis Ababa. He told Daily Trust during a visit to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development that Nigeria needs to invest more in agricultural research.
What is the purpose of your visit to Nigeria?
I came as the head of a delegation called FARA de Forum. Now let me make a brief description between the secretariat of FARA and FARA de Forum. The secretariat services the interest of the forum, and de forum is the agglomeration of all the stakeholders in agricultural research for the continent. So, it was a delegation that was composed of a cross-section of stakeholders.
In the delegation, I have three of the senior colleagues from FARA, and we have from Nigeria the head of Agricultural Research Council, Professor Abubakar and we also have two representatives of the Director General of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) based in Ibadan, and we also had the Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute, Dr. Jimmy Smith.
Basically, as I said, it was my first mission out of office and I wanted to have the minister abreast of my desire to have Nigeria continue to play an important role in the domain for agricultural research development in the continent. Nigeria is a leader on the continent in many fronts, we are playing a leadership role in peace and security, in democracy, in supporting infrastructure across the continent, in supporting institutional mechanisms that are put in place by the AU. Nigeria plays a very critical role in the economic life of the continent.
However, from what I am beginning to see over the last couple of years and this is not peculiar to Nigeria, investment in agricultural research has been down. Across the continent today, the key supporter of African research and development have been European and American countries, but we felt that Nigeria should now come to the fore and support the efforts of FARA de Forum and the secretariat in the drive to have a food secured Africa.
What do you make of the value chain approach?
As mentioned earlier, am an animal scientist and I have made my mark when it comes to livestock research and livestock integrated systems. I am particularly delighted that the minister has chosen to pursue the value chain approach and that is the way to go. If we look at countries that have broken the food insecurity barrier of the late (last 30 years), we have countries like Brazil and China; these two countries paid the heavy price of investing in agricultural value chain. Brazil is a model to emulate and if you go to China, it is another scenario where you have demand approach to research from farm to fork which means that you disaggregate every segment of the chain from the farm until it reaches the table.
In other words, if we adopt what I referred to earlier on as demand driven research, as opposed to the supply driven research, we look at the table and see what is the demand on the dining table of Nigerians and what will be the demand facing Nigeria 50 years from now? And behold if Nigeria is not to be a food insecure nation by then, preparations have to be on board as from today. And what does that mean for us, we are looking at the trend of the daily lives, the evolution in the demography of Nigeria, the migration that we see from the rural to the urban scenarios, the kind of demands people are making which are beginning to appear as if the middle class is increasing and the demand for high protein commodities are on the rise.
Now the question facing us is, will we be able to meet this demand? And if yes, there are a few things we still have to do. Well it is on record that about 45% of the foods we produce do not get to the table because of post-harvest loss and one of the key issues in the reduction of post-harvest loss is definitely the issue of value addition, processing and transformation of products. And when we look at the value chain, there is the issue when you have to deal with the inputs, agro-dealership, fertilizers, seeds, access to credits and enhancing the capacity of the farmers not to do business.
Take the example of IITA where there has being tremendous input in the cassava value chain. What that means for us is that the growing of cassava is becoming a business not just the production of garri and akpu and with this business beginning to emerge, we can begin to see that IITA is now beginning to develop technology that can handle 10 tonnes of cassava per day. What that tells me is that we are not just meeting our requirement for cassava, we now know that there is cassava been integrated in the bread that we eat in Nigeria which was not the case 5-10 years ago, because we are now in a stage where there is rapidly growing supply of innovations and technologies to meet this demand. Let us not lose sight on the fact that the same system into which this (throw-put) of cassava is coming through will generate a lot of biomass in terms of wastes. For example you have to peel the cassava before you can use the flesh, now plants that is having a (throw-put) of 10-20 tonnes of cassava per day tells me that there is going to be enormous production of cassava peels, now to the uninformed mind, peels of 20 tonnes of cassava is a waste product. But I can tell you that such a biomass is a raw material for a totally different line of industry and this can be harnessed in annual nutrition. Nigeria is a high consumer of poultry and we also produce poultry so how do we meet the need of the poultry industry. Cassava peels are high energy compliments and can be fed to non-ruminants and ruminants alike.
So, in my humble opinion, we at FARA can help develop the necessary institutional support. For example we can contribute to high level capacity development in terms of human resources, we can facilitate exchange peer to peer capacity development from other neighbouring or non-neighbouring facilities; we can bring a network of centres of excellence that are offspring research in terms of molecular biology and high level research in the domain of agriculture.
Can your research and the intellectuals within your system proffer solution to the insurmountable problem of trans-humans?
Let me say this; there have always been a perennial challenge in trans-humans. But you have to look and say, what is the driving force for trans-humans? It is cultural, ethical and also an occupation. But what is it that we can do to address this challenge? Climate change is not making it easier but I want to say this categorically; it is not peculiar to Nigeria and the solutions have been put in place to ensure that with management of our natural resources and judiciously harnessing them by the different communities, Nigeria’s case will be different.
SOURCE: Daily Trust