IITA Remains Unmatched Globally – Adeshina


The president, African Development Bank, AFDB, Mr. Akinwunmi Adeshina, in his opening remarks at IITA’s golden jubilee celebration on Monday, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital rated the aesthetic environment of the institute as second to none globally.

His words: “My wife and I, and the African Development Bank, congratulate IITA on its 50th anniversary.

There are so many things I remember about IITA. First, is the beauty of its campus, which remains unmatched globally. As a young boy, every time my dad would drive us by the front of the institute, I used to be so much in awe of its beauty.

We used to call it ‘America’. For me, I did not need any visa to go to America, America was right here in Ibadan.

I had then a dream to work at IITA, if only to have the opportunity of ‘going to America’.  That dream came to pass in 1995-1998 when I was internationally recruited as the Senior Economist and Social Science Coordinator at IITA by the then Director General, Dr. Lucas Brader.

There I spent three years out of my ten years of working in the global agricultural research centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which included also working at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the West Africa Rice Development Association, now the Africa Rice center.”

“Second, at IITA, I worked with world-class intellectuals, including several here today, and the current Director General, Dr. Sanginga, who was my colleague in the Resources and Crop Management Program. Publishing in international journals was something we all celebrated.

And the review process was so rigorous. But I must tell you, Dr. Sanginga, was the most published scientist then in the whole of IITA, no matter how much I tried, we could not match him!

IITA’s work on alley-farming sparked global interest in sustainable agriculture. It’s landmark breakthrough on biological control, which saved Africa from the devastating cassava mealy bug that would have wiped out all its cassava, was globally recognized.

The scientist who led that work won the prestigious World Food Prize, known as the ‘Nobel Prize’ for Food and Agriculture.”

“Third, my late father in law, Dr. Barnabas Oloruntoba, who as Nigeria’s first Federal Director of Agriculture and then Federal Permanent Secretary of Agriculture under the then Head of State, General Gowon, was instrumental in setting up IITA, and latter became the vice chairman of its Board. He would have loved to be here today, but he passed away two months ago. So you see, there’s a history of institutional genetic linkages between IITA and I.”

“Fourth, IITA has contributed so much to agriculture all across Africa, and of course, right here in Nigeria. The institute developed the maize varieties that transformed the savanna and humid zones.

Its cowpea varieties supplied the beans on our markets. Its soybean varieties led to the soya beans revolution in Nigeria. And it’s work on cassava and yams still form the core of Nigeria’s cassava and yams value chain transformation. That’s why as Minister of Agriculture, I put IITA at the core of our agricultural transformation agenda.

IITA is also at the core of the Bank’s work to develop a new generation of young agribusiness leaders for Africa – the Agripreneurs – who are all here today.

IITA is developing the next generation of farmers for Africa – all, university graduates! That is highly commendable!

IITA is an institution that is run with transparency, honesty and integrity, one that has stood the test of time. I am bold to say I am very proud to be associated with IITA. Throughout my time as Minister of Agriculture, every fund we provided to this Institute was very well used and properly accounted for, with visible impacts. When I see that anywhere, in any institution, I will strongly support that institution. For integrity and accountability are the keys for success. The past 50 years of IITA have been full of successes.

The next 10 years will be when we usher in the fulfillment of the dream to feed Africa. And IITA’s role will be very important to our cause. I hope, by the grace of God, to be back here then, to celebrate its 60th anniversary, for that will really be a glorious one for Africa!”

By Adeyemi Bamidele Ezekiel