While the agricultural sector is very important in Nigeria, it is however still grappling with many challenges including low yields of key staple crops and livestock, poor market access, lack of inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizers, among others, Engineer Akeju Olagbaju, a Director with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMARD) has said.
Speaking while officiating a stakeholders’ forum from farmers’ organizations, development agencies, donor organizations, the private sector, private and public extension actors, regional organizations, research partners in the national program, the media and policymakers , Engr Olagbaju noted that the country has a large number of unemployed youth for whom agriculture can be a source of jobs and income.
Despite the challenges, Olagbaju said that agricultural research holds key to unlocking the bottlenecks, stressing that the Nigerian government would provide the enabling environment to ensure that the site integration plans were properly executed in line with the national development agenda.
The forum orgainsed by the CGIAR centers working in Nigeria and key representatives of the country’s agriculture stakeholders aimed at forging close working with each other and at the same time better align their activities to the national priorities.
Discussions on better integration and the mechanics of how all important stakeholders could work together at the national level were held at a two-day meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, 16 – 17 November. The meeting explored how CGIAR can be better integrated in the country’s agriculture research for development (R4D) fabric.
The participants looked at the agricultural strategy of Nigeria, the challenges facing the sector, the national priorities, donors and funders’ priorities, and CGIAR activities in the country. They discussed principles and mechanisms that would help guide the development of an integration framework outlining the collaboration, selection of sites, and other important areas including monitoring and evaluation, communication, governance structures. The framework which would lead to the development of a plan will be used to inform the development of phase 2 of the CGIAR Research Programs. The meeting was organized by IITA’s Partnership Coordination Office led by Alfred Dixon.
The President of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Tunji Adenola commended CGIAR for the initiative of site integration, emphasizing that it would multiply the benefits of research.
“Take for instance, IITA and CIMMYT have been working on maize, and they have been able to develop improved maize varieties. Site integration has the potential of scaling up the benefits of these varieties such that more farmers will have access to these varieties,” he explained.
Also speaking at the meeting, Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General for Partnerships and Capacity Development, noted that the days of each CGIAR center working alone is long gone. “CGIAR is moving into a mode of greater collaboration and integration with national, regional, and international partners within a single location,” he said.
Kwesi Atta-Krah, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated System for the Humidtropics spoke on behalf of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), and the CGIAR Consortium.
He said that the challenge to agricultural development was huge and demanded collaboration among all stakeholders.
“Our goal is to ensure how best the smallholder farmer in Nigeria will derive more benefits from research,” Dr Atta-Krah added.
Other speakers at the workshop were Atsuko Toda, from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on behalf of the Agriculture Development Partners’ Working Group, and Alfred Dixon who gave an overview of CGIAR’s presence in Nigeria.
This meeting is the first in a series of meetings on site integration being organized by CGIAR. The next meeting will take place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 3-4 December also organized by IITA. Other countries slated soon include Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya, among others.