By Onche Odeh
When the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) was established in 2006, it was given the statutory mandate of coordinating, supervising and regulating agricultural research, training and extension in all fifteen National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) and eleven Federal Colleges of Agriculture (FCAs) across the country.As a follow up to its establishment, ARCN has put some initiatives in place aimed at giving the research system some life. However good these initiatives are, they have not been able to deliver the expected outcome in terms of relevance to the end users.
In view of this, stakeholders have recommended that URCN should focus its energy on how make its activity more impactful ton he people and communities.
WAPP-Nigeria’s National Project Coordinator, Prof. Damian Chikwendu, who gave further reasons for change in focus for ARCN said, “From all practical indications, the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), which is primed on coordination, is not working well for Nigeria.
“It is not responding to the government’s demand for cost-effective management, generation of appropriate technologies, agricultural growth and the individual needs of the rural poor.”
According to Prof. Chikwendu, WAPP has taken the lead by providing insight to the government of Nigeria and experts on the best approach that could make agricultural researches relevant to the farmer, and most importantly to the consumer.
“To make ARCN really work, it must be transformed from a coordinating to a managing council,” Prof Chikwendu said, adding also that Nigeria must examine and bench mark best practices from countries with success stories.
He said: “A situation whereby the council has a board that is completely separated in operations from that of the research institutes creates vacuum that is the reason most researches are not useful in Nigeria.”
The WAPP Coordinator who spoke in an interview with Sunday Independent in Abuja, cited Brazil, India and China as countries that Nigeria must learn from in this regards.
As a step in this direction, he disclosed that WAPP embarked on study trips to Brazil, India and China where the team of experts and researchers took time to study how the Indian example could be replicated in Nigeria.
Giving details on the study tours, Prof. Chikwendu said, “The objective of the study tours was to understand the organisation of agricultural research systems in the countries with a view to transforming ARCN into a more efficient and functional body capable of driving agricultural development in Nigeria.”
Giving further details, he said, “In India, we visited the Indian Centre for Agricultural Research (ICAR) in New Delhi, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Gurgaon and other similar institutions.
“In China, we visited the CAAS facilities including the Gene Bank in Beijing, while in Brazil we visited the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (EMBRAPA), Headquarters, Ministry of Agrarian Development among other research locations.”
Lessons from India, China and Brazil
Speaking on the strong lessons that the team is intending to use as template for transforming ARCN, Prof. Chikwendu said, “In India, we observed a strong link between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the National Agricultural Research System (NARS).”
Shedding more light on this, he said, “The NARS, which comprises of 30 research institutes, 60 project Directorates, 78 Indian Coordinated Research Projects, 61 States Agricultural Universities, 6 Deemed Universities and Agricultural Faculties in many traditional universities, are under the coordination and supervision of ICAR in terms of funding of research activities.”
Speaking on the China experience, he said, “In China, funding of research is heavily dependent on government, although institutes are made to access funds for research projects through competitive research grant scheme.”
From Brazil, the WAPP-Nigeria Project Coordinator said the EMPRAPA model could be domicile to an extent in Nigeria.
“There are 47 research centres under the purview of EMPRAPA. All the staff of the centres are staff of EMPRAPA and the funding of the centres comes through the same institutions,” he said.
As an immediate step towards adopting some of the best practices that have turned the tide in the countries visited, Prof. Chikwendu said WAPP-Nigeria has inaugurated an innovation platform consisting of various groups, including farmers, agro dealers, transporters and others with interest in agriculture to pursue a common goal. The broad aim, he said, is to find best approaches to adding values to the supply chains of crops like yam, cassava, rice, maize, mango and aquaculture, being their focal crops.
According to Prof. Chikwendu, the innovation platform holds a lot of promises for agricultural development in Nigeria, as it would add value to agro products and their strings of value chains.
“We are working with over Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) across the country. They will nurture the programme and also use it to gain experience, in which case they are kept busy,” he said.
According to Prof. Chikwendu, the Innovation platform, which is an adoption of the Indian model, could also become a success story in Nigeria with upgrade of infrastructure and research facilities.
Commercialisation of research products
Chikwendu who spoke on the need to commercialise research products in Nigeria, said, “We have realised that most researchers do researches for promotion. This is the reason some research institutes are not even known by the people in the community they are domiciled.
“Because of this WAPP has set a benchmark that ensure that the institutes must find a way of being relevant, first to their immediate environment. So they are made to adopt at least two communities.”
Using the foreign example, he said: “A situation where technologies are developed and remain on the shelf for several years without being adopted by farmers may not arise because of the processes involved in technology development and testing.”
This, according him, WAPP already is working with the Federal Institute for Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO) towards the development and commercialisation of research outcomes.
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