Nigeria will have to rely on locally developed seedlings and machinery engineered by Research Institutes to drive food production due to the COVID-19 pandemic impact on imports, the Executive Secretary of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof Garba Sharubutu has said.
The pandemic has affected many sectors of the economy and, according to the ARCN boss, agriculture has been the worst hit.
He stated this in an interview at the Council’s headquarters in Abuja, noting that the economic diversification efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and the attention being given to the agriculture sector would help to ensure food security and protect farm investments.
“The focus of Mr. President is on diversification of the economy and the number one target is on agriculture.
“Based on the serious nature of the pandemic… we will no more be importing most of our inputs; the machineries that we will use on our farms will definitely not be coming in because of the closure of our borders; so that calls for a serious challenge on us to refocus our research towards improved seedlings that will be used to improve our productivity. Most of our research institutes are into fabrication of farm implements. Now we have to refocus ourselves to make sure that the farming implements that are supposed to be used to improve productivity are now produced back here,” he said.
He noted that Nigeria’s research centres are supposed to look at production and post-production losses; in terms of pesticides, in terms of good storage capacity, and chemicals that are supposed to fight diseases.
“So, we are now ever than before determined that we hit at the target of our major problems. And we have the capacity to do that,” he said.
ARCN on Tuesday held the 2020 Agricultural Summit/Seminar on Service Delivery, declaring the summit open. Prof. Sharubutu noted that the event will give the secretariat staff of the ARCN as well the Senate Committee On Agriculture the inside information as to what the problems are, and the role the ARCN Bill that is lying before the National Assembly will play in reforming the Council for better productivity.
“Now part of this seminar is to spell out these challenges in the various sectors and then we will be able to focus our research based on the communique that we are going to bring out from this.”
He noted that some of the challenges of the ARCN include multiplicity of membership of the board, the independence or lack of independence of the various agricultural research units, and the registration and recognition of the Federal Colleges of Agriculture all over the country.
“Before now, the federal colleges of agriculture did not have statutory law establishing them. And so the purpose of that review is for that, which is a very serious challenge at the level of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). They will always recognise colleges that have laws establishing them. Now in the absence of such/those laws, the aim of the review of our Act is supposed to address that.
“Then there is relative independence of the various research institutes under our purview, and more so, with the nature and focus of our research, we would want to allow ARCN to streamline it so that our budget will be focused, rather than every research institute having to think of its own way of implementing its budget. This time around, we want research to be result-driven, we want research to be based on the demand of the country and we also want to have the best practices globally,” he said.
In her remark, Chief Agricultural Research Officer, & Head, SERVICOM/Nodal Office of ARCN, Dr. Mrs. Nnaemeka Edith Ihegwuagu said that the theme was centred on service delivery in order to strengthen the network between the farmers and researchers in the Agricultural Research Institutes spread across the nation, as well as the Federal Colleges of Agriculture.
“SERVICOM is about service delivery. We want to ensure that the service we are called to deliver is done in a timely, honest, fair and professional manner.
“We have a new CEO in town, Prof. Garba Hamidu Sharubutu, who in a short time, has established good service delivery, and ensured that services are delivered as and when due. So the public is hereby encouraged to step into ARCN, and get services at the right time,” she said.