Nigeria smallholder farmers have continued to lag behind its peers’ in terms of yield per hectare and this is owing to the inability of the agricultural research institutes in the country to provide them with the technology that would boost their productivity.
Nigeria’s agricultural research institutes have continued to be the weak link in Nigeria’s drive to diversify the economy through the sector and make exponential gains by way of earnings, employment, and other spin-offs.
The agric research institutes across the country are however falling grossly short in providing the technologies that would drive growth in the sector and are lagging behind smaller peer nations, where agriculture is less of a priority.
Experts have attributed this to poor funding. They identify poor research funding as the major challenge among others limiting the institutes to provide vital research that would impact farmers’ productivity.
The institutes were established by the Federal Government in its efforts to increase agricultural productivity, improve the lives of rural communities and make Nigeria sufficient in food production.
The institutes were mandated to provide technologies that will increase farmers’ productivity and boost food production through the science of research.
But today, the dream has become dead, the vision blurred and the mission a mere statement of expression as majority of the institutes are a mere shadow of themselves.
“We have a total of 13,000,000 staffs and 90 percent of the yearly allocation goes into salaries and emoluments. Only 10 percent goes into research. This is why the institutes have not been able to improve farmers output,” Baba Yusuf Abubakar, former executive secretary of the Nigerian Agricultural Research Council (ARCN) told BusinessDay.
“We cannot conduct effective research which such stipends. Research plays a pivotal role in transforming the agricultural sector and that is why we must take it very seriously,” Abubakar said.
Data obtained from the budgetary allocation to the agricultural ministry shows that the research institutions got an average of N28 billion yearly ($78 million) in the last five years.
Comparing Nigeria’s annual spend on its agric research institutes with that of India’s $2 billion, Brazil’s $1 billion and China’s $700 million, shows that research is still grossly underfunded in the country.
According to Michael Oluwole Ajala, professor of Seed Technology, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB) the agric research institutions in the country are underfunded and lack basic facilities needed to conduct research.
Ajala stated that most of the equipment are obsolete and cannot be used for modern research work.
Similarly, a 2015 ActionAid report, states that for every $100 of agricultural output, Nigeria invests only $0.42 into agricultural research, as compared to $0.94 and $1.40 in Ghana and Uganda respectively.
Despite the country’s large size of agriculture in relation to other African nations, Nigeria lags behind its peers in the sector in terms of research funding.
Nigeria has the highest agricultural research system in Africa though, in terms of investments and number of researchers, with over 80 government and high education institutes and over 2,000 researchers engaged in research.
In view of this shortfall, experts emphasize the need for the government to increase its investments in agricultural research if truly it hopes to revive the sector.
The experts stressed the need of government to address the issue underfunding if truly it wants the sector to play a leading role in its diversification quest.
They also underscore the need for private-sector participation in the funding and delivery of agricultural extension services so as to meet the needs of the farmers.