While delivering a speech at the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State, Acting Executive Director of the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Ilorin, Dr Patricia Pessu, talked about some of the solutions to the challenges facing agriculture as an occupation in Nigeria, as he suggested the need to fast-track agro-economic development and diversify sustainably, a dedicated trust fund to finance agricultural research.
The symposium which took place on Tuesday, gave room for Pessu to express his notion as he spoke on theme of the programme centered around ‘Sustainable Diversification of Nigerian Economy through Agricultural Research,’ as she explained to mean maintaining agricultural research to deliver on their respective mandates which can only be actualised effectively if a central funding commission is put in place.
She maintained that if the Federal Government can actually attain this feat, it will inturn be helpful to the economy as it will give room for new technologies and products to prop up.
“The commission could be jointly funded by the government and the private sector. The tertiary education system of Nigeria has a funding body called the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). This could also be replicated for agricultural research, and such body could be named ‘Agricultural Research Trust Fund (AGFund), ” said Pessu.
While Pessu was trying to elucidate the need for the country to adopt this financing strategy she cited the United States of America (USA) as an example, noting that after the world giants set up a commission named Oklahoma Wheat Commission to coordinate all research activities on wheat in Oklahoma State, which was initiated after realising the importance of agricultural research to their economy.
Thus, she urged th governments to come up with adequate funding to sustain the diversification into agriculture for future generations, which will also aid efficiency of operations carried out in the country’s institutions involved in research into animal immunisation, artificial insemination, biological control of pests, embryo transfer, genetic engineering, hydroponics, precision technologies, post-harvest physiology and tissue culture.
“There is need for more effective collaboration between the government, academia and industry for provision of technical and financial support to Nigeria’s research institutions and scientists to drive agricultural support, which will catalyze transformative change, which will culminate in a sustainable and diversified economy,” she advocated.
Dr Persuu also further encouraged researchers to channel more focus on the need to meet global food security goals through advancement of productivity, by supporting research to cut down challenges in production, increasing yield potential for major crops and livestock; transforming key production systems through intensification in areas where poverty and under-nutrition are concentrated, as well as improving food safety and nutrition.
Meanwhile, she expressed her dissatisfaction about the nation’s stagnant reliance on a mono economy that is very dependent on crude oil, as she stressed on the critical need for diversification which could possibly make the economy gloom once again.
“The swings in oil prices and the precarious future it holds for nations’ prosperity are enough and cogent signals to wake our nation up that something must be done and very urgently.
“Investment in agricultural research and development remains that very important action that must be taken which is cheaper, more enduring and more sustainable. That is a key factor to take the country away from poverty to prosperity,” she argued.
Thereafter, she confirmed that the sole activities of the commission had been fruitful to the US government, as it has been constantly pumping in billions of dollars from wheat alone.