“It gives me great joy to somehow help out a little in improving Agriculture in Africa. Though I love my country, but it is not my life, my life is to be working in a country like Nigeria, my life is to be working in Africa to help the farmers of Africa.”
The foregoing are the words of Dr. Kenton Dashiell. He is the Deputy Director of Partnership for Delivery at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan.
Kenton started his bachelor’s degree in 1973 at Purdue University, Indiana, United States. He was brought up in a city where he didn’t grow up as a farmer, neither a trained one, but had so much interest in forestry as a result of his love for trees in the forest. He is our personality of the week.
agrobusinessngr.com visited him in his office at the institute’s headquarters in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, where he has worked for 18 years, doing what he knows how to do and loves best.
We had a lecture on plants breeding and how this has developed special rice and wheat varieties in India. And these new varieties of rice and wheat changed India from a country that experienced famine almost every year to a country having so much food for export. That was fantastic, so, I wanted to be like those people that do that kind of work. Therefore, it has been since then that my action goal was to work at a place like IITA.
In the beginning
To God be the glory, I found myself here in 1983 as a soya bean breeder and I have worked here for 18years. As soya bean breeder, I saw it grow from a very minor crop to a major crop herein, and that was an experience for me.
Family Pressure and love for Africa
Thereafter, I left IITA for eleven years due to family reasons; I wanted my children to experience life in the United States because that is where I come from. After working in the US for nine years, I told my lovely wife that I have to get back to Africa. Though I love my country, but it is not my life, my life is to be working in a country like Nigeria, my life is to be working in Africa to help the farmers of Africa.
Return to Nigeria and new job responsibility
I came back to IITA 5years ago and I am currently the Deputy Director of partnership for delivery, I loved my job and I also have a great team of people here who I work with every day, and as my title implies, my job is to actually develop strong partnerships with private industries, Government, and NGO’s, to take these great technologies being developed by IITA to the farmers, processors, and the marketers.
Strategies adopted to position IITA in terms of partnerships
All over Africa, there are very great skilled and motivated people that want to do great work and they are working for organizations that don’t have the resources to allow them to give their best. For instance, Agriculture in Nigeria is done by a great number of people who know what is expected of them, they want to do it but lack the means to get things done. IITA is an organization that is quite strong at finding resources to help organizations like such. We write over 250 proposals each year and these proposals bring us the financial resources that we eventually share with our partners so that we can deliver these technologies to farmers.
Hence, the strategy is fund seeking from donors like the US government, the Bill Gate Foundation and many others, and then we use the financial resources to help our partners do what they want to do.
Low and High Points over the Years
Any time there is a difficult situation there is always a challenge, but I see it as an opportunity. Therefore, every challenge is always an opportunity to do things the right way. The opportunities far outweigh the challenges, I have been here for 23 years and I have always enjoyed my stay.
When I started working here, I can drive from here in Ibadan to Kaduna, Kano, Fantua, Jos, Ilorin and back to Ibadan during the growing season and never see one soya-bean planted. However, if I take the same journey between September and October, I see thousands of soya beans planted which eventually generate income and means of sustenance to the farmers. That alone gives me great joy.
While in the US
My first three years in the United States of America were spent at the Oklahoma State University as a groundnut breeder for the State. That was also where I did my masters degree on Groundnut. Three years after, I joined a Research service, United States Department of Agriculture. I was the leader of the research station there in; I enjoyed my stay there because the organisation gave me the opportunity to develop my management and literary skills.
Combining Family and Work
Basically, I work about 12hours a day and 7 days in a week. I reach my family on the phone; do have some conversation with my wife on daily basis. So, family life is cool. During the December holiday, we do get together.
I like to play Tennis and I like to take long walks with my lovely wife. Then, I like to watch CNN to know happenings around the globe.
In conclusion, it gives me great joy to somehow help out a little in improving Agriculture in Africa.