COMMUNIQUE OF THE 2019 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AND EXPO ON RESEARCH AND INNOVATIONS IN AGRICULTURE HOSTED BY AGROBUSINESS TIMES AT THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, LAGOS, ON OCTOBER 24, 2019.
The International Conference and Expo on Research and Innovations in Agriculture (ICERIA 2019) by AGROBUSINESS TIMES was successfully hosted and held at the International Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, on October 24, 2019. The theme of the conference and expo was “Harnessing Sustainable Agricultural Innovations for Economic Development”.
The 1-day conference had the presence of 125 persons in attendance cutting across the academia and research institutes, the diplomatic community, media, government, government and world bank intervention projects/programmes, the private sector and farmers, agricultural associations and societies, NGOs and Not for Profit Organizations, and other major stakeholders within the agricultural sector.
The conference had Mr. Taiwo Obe as Chairman, Mr. John Ogunlela as Moderator and Dr. Kanayo Nwanze (former IFAD President) as Keynote Speaker, who in his speech stated that “We should not expect Nigeria’s transformation to be brought out from foreign direct investments and partnerships. We must do it ourselves”.
PRESENTATIONS AND DISCUSSIONS
Panelists from the research sector, government and the private sector participated in the panel discussions. Presentations were made on the following:
1.Breakthroughs and innovations in agricultural research, the IITA model.
- How the Netherlands became leaders in agricultural innovations worldwide.
- Climate change and food security: the role of climate smart agriculture.
- How research outcomes reach farmers and market place.
Discussants focused on innovations, findings, efforts, challenges and how the sub-sector can be advanced to promote economic development. They also spoke on challenges and how research findings can be commercialized.
It was unanimously agreed that research and innovations in the agricultural sector is pivotal to the nation’s economic development, and that collaboration is key to sustainable agricultural growth. All deliberations are summarized in the following recommendations and resolutions:
RECOMMENDATIONS AND RESOLUTIONS:
- Collaboration among the government, research institutes, farmers and processors in order to reap the economic benefits in the agricultural Industry is key. That the tripod relationship will also ensure that agro industries are sited in rural areas where they can add value than where they are currently located as this is germaine to enhancing food security and economic advancement.
- The importance of creating sustainable agriculture systems that would encourage improved yield was acknowledged and that self-sufficiency in the agricultural sector has immense benefits for the country.
- The federal government should not expect Nigeria’s transformation to happen through foreign direct investments and partnerships, we must do it ourselves.
- The federal government should develop policies that would distinguish the country in the areas of innovation, research and export of agricultural products.
- Government must ensure sustainable financing of all sectors involved in agriculture research and development. Funds are also needed to scale up off taking of research findings from the shelves of researchers and establishment of demonstration farms.
- The sector remains the largest employer of labour, accordingly, government should make agriculture attractive to young men and women to appreciate it as an economic activity and money-making business because people still think of agriculture as hoe and cutlass business.
- Participants advocated for an annual gathering of stakeholders within the sector for more discuss towards harnessing and optimizing research outcomes and innovations that could shape the industry and advance the nation’s economy.
- Farmers should engage more in integrated farming to save cost and maximize profit while agriculture centres should commence work on waste to wealth programmes and projects.
- The need for elaborate mechanized farming schemes by goverment was noted. Discussants also emphasized that government should encourage Cooperative farming, within the ambit of cooperative society, as this would engender competitive advantage where each state of the federation, backed by government funding and adequate research can continue to develope and produce specific crops different from that of other states.
- We should be worried about the quality of waste within each ecosystem.
- That subsistence farmers are only producing food to secure themselves and their families and in most cases, what they produce is usually not enough for them and therefore require government support. Discussants also noted that Nigeria would never achieve food security until the government begins to genuinely support commercial farmers.
- Government should set up training institutes for Farmers because lots of Nigerians are getting into farming without proper training and as a result they most times end up getting their fingers burnt.
13.Research institutions need to understand the business of commercializing research outcomes and innovations. They also need to understand research, synergy, collaboration and its benefits.
- Nigeria is seating on a keg of gunpowder with over 40 million unemployed youths. Accordingly, Nigeria’s mission has to match its vision and therefore must think at a scale that can solve her problems once and for all.
- Farmers within the agriculture sector must be organized. There is also the need to build a bridge between farmers and research institutes.
- The government should hands off the business of agriculture to the private sector (farmers). And when coming up with policies, farmers should be part of the process because the high and mighty really have no business in making decisions for farmers; farmers should be allowed to proffer solutions to how the business of food production can be made viable for them and the nation.
- The government should handover moribund farm settlements to farmers associations as they are very willing to revive and turn them to farm estates.
- Government should continue with the current border closure while planning for innovative ways of guarding the nation’s borders to protect our economy rather than closing them completely.
19.Commercialisation of research outcomes require huge capital and investments.
20.Research institutes should not allow profit making to overtake their mandates. Most research outcomes and innovations in agriculture are beyond the reach of Nigerian farmers as they are very expensive. Accordingly, research institutes should come up with commercially viable products.
- Agriculture in tertiary institutions should be designed to be a profitable venture in order to make it attractive to young Nigerians. Students in tertiary institutions studying agriculture should have on-the-farm training as part of their curriculum before they graduate. Business courses that will enable stakeholders in the agricultural sector to be more grounded in the business of agriculture should be introduced into the education curriculum as well.
- For agriculture to succeed and to ensure food security, government must focus on smallholder farmers due to lots of issues like expensive seedlings, lack of financial inclusion, lack of proper financial structures that will enable financial inclusion in rural areas.
- Farmers do not trust government especially in the area of policy somersault. So the government needs to win the trust of farmers.
- Government should begin to engage and invest towards advancing the deployment of climate smart agric innovations to ensure food security.
- Agricultural institutions and farmers should mechanize their operations as this will reduce workforce that could be channeled into other value chains.
- No nation was ever able to transform into an industrial economy without first experiencing an agrarian transformation. It is thus imperative for our governments both at the Federal and State levels to give priority attention to the agricultural sector. We also call on the private sector to be the main drivers for the transformation of agriculture and for which government must put in place enabling and consistent policies in support of agribusiness.
- Nigeria is seating on a goldmine and if we can hardness our resources properly, we can become the next world power.