Poor allocation, system failure stall agric research potentials

GMO crop plants in the laboratory of genetic research
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Agricultural research institutes operating in the country have failed to provide technologies that will improve farmers output as low yield per hectare of most food and cash crop still persists, BusinessDay investigations have shown.

Analysts attribute the inability of agric research institutes to reach its potentials to poor funding, system failure, corruption and total neglect of the institutions by the government.

According to them, there is need for the government to address this issue if it wants agriculture to play a leading role in the diversification process.

“The research institutions are underfunded and they lack basic facilities. Equipment for research are obsolete or not in existence in many of these institutes,” said Micheal Oluwole Ajala, professor of Seed Technology, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB).

“Corruption is also a big problem. Most of the money allocated to these institutions in the budget doesn’t get to the institutions. One third of the total allocations finally get to these institutions. The money gets into private hands instead of the research institutions,” Ajala said.

Data obtained from the budgetary allocation to the agricultural ministry shows that the research institutions get an average of N19.6 billion yearly in the last three years. This means that the country cumulatively spent N59 billion on research institutes in the last three years without commensurate result.

In its bid to increase agricultural productivity, improve the lives of rural communities and make Nigeria sufficient in food, the federal government established various agric research institutes with a focus on food and cash crop, mandated to provide technologies that will increase farmers’ productivity and boost food production.

But today, the dream has become dead, the vision blurred and the mission a mere statement of expression as majority of the institutes are mere shadow of themselves.

“We have a total of 13,000,000 staff members 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,” said Baba Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN).

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.

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, according to a 2015 report by ActionAid.

“The agricultural research institutions in the country are not working. They have not improved farmers’ output in any way,” said Tunde Oyelola, chairman, MAN Export Group.

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. However, official fraud limits funds from reaching their points of critical need.

“Government needs to fund them adequately because research is not cheap and to ensure that the funds get to the institutions,” Oyelola adds.

The research institutes have blamed the inability of them to improve farmers output on failed government structures that does not allow effective and efficient translation of what the researchers are doing to the farmers.

According to Celestine Ikuenobe, director of research, Nigerian Institute of Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), “despite poor funding, we still provide some technologies for farmers but the government structures has failed to translate the technologies to farmers.

Most of the seedlings used by farmers across the federation are imported from other countries and this has led to the importation and distribution of fake seeds in the country. Many research institutes are redundant and are not conducting any research.

“Because you don’t produce, people smuggle or import various types of vaccines into this country. We need more vaccines,” Audu Ogbe, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development said to researchers when commissioning the Biosafety level three laboratory at the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom recently.

 

Josephine Okojie

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