Raising a coordinated voice for food security
Run a study on agricultural research and development, and then discuss it with experts: The result is a lively debate with clear signposting to improvements.
Our Foundation and Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited (Sahel Consulting) recently co-hosted a discussion on future agriculture and food research and development in Nigeria. This hybrid event brought together some 50 participants in Abuja and online. They included representatives of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs), agricultural universities, CG centers, donor and development organizations and the private sector.
The starting point for the discussion was a study commissioned by our Foundation. Its aim was to shed light on the past and current focus of public agriculture and food R&D in Nigeria, identify major trends in research funding and spending, highlight R&D gaps and recommend new approaches.
“We’re studying these topics in several countries”, explains our Head of Agricultural Policy, Yuan Zhou. “Nigeria is an interesting case. Progress in its agriculture sector remains slow; the related R&D system is complex and ineffective. Possible ARCN and other ag research reforms have been under discussion for a while. So this seemed a good time to look at the topic more closely, understand key gaps and propose reforms.”
Such reforms are increasingly urgent. Nigeria is falling behind in achieving food and nutrition security for its growing population, and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “Transforming the agricultural and food system to address climate change, nutrition and sustainability issues is crucial”, emphasizes Yuan. “This will require innovation, driven by the needs of farmers, consumers and the environment. Research plays an important role in the innovation process.”
Umar Umar represented the ARCN Executive Secretary at the meeting. Welcoming participants, he stated that the government’s ARCN amendment bill would strengthen the organization’s coordination efforts and further streamline the research system’s governance structure. In her keynote speech, FMARD representative Patience Yamah stressed the importance of R&D for national food security. She called for collaboration and synergy between research institutes and colleges of agriculture, increased support for extension services, and engagement with end-users during the research process.
Study provides plenty of food for thought
Temitope Adegoroye from Sahel Consulting presented the study findings. He highlighted the major gaps in the agricultural research landscape and the resulting recommendations. These include introduction of an agricultural research policy, capacity-building support for the ARCN and NARIs, as well as diversification of funding sources. The study also recommends the creation of systems and structures to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of fund allocation and utilization, protection of intellectual property rights, and greater synergy between research institutes. “This should eliminate the duplication of research efforts and promote communication and knowledge-sharing”, Temitope commented.
Lord Paul Boateng, a member of our Board, moderated a lively panel discussion. The five panelists* represented research institutes, the private sector, government agencies, development partners and educational institutions. They pointed to a lack of clear policy direction for agriculture research in Nigeria, limited focus on key research areas, low levels of funding, the huge gap between research, extension and end users, and a lack of synergy, collaboration and ‘intentionality’. The panel also highlighted the role of the private sector as a source both of inputs and information on end-user needs. Discussing the lack of sustainable funding for agricultural R&D, panelists urged an expansion of research beyond the demands of donors.
In her closing remarks, Ndidi Nwuneli reemphasized the critical role of agriculture R&D for data-driven decision-making by the government. As Managing Partner of Sahel Consulting, Ndidi stated the need for collaboration across the public and private sectors, civil society and development partners. She charged actors to “act urgently to deliver impact in the sector”.
Our Executive Director Simon Winter underlined the need for research to be driven by end-users. “This creates an opportunity for the adoption of research by actors across the value chain”, he noted. To achieve sustainable impact, Simon emphasized the need for links between funding for agriculture research and the end-users’ priorities. He called for “action coalitions”. These should be composed of “stakeholders who can advocate for adoption and implementation of recommendations on reorienting future agriculture research and development in Nigeria”.
The full study report is available on our website. “In addition,” says Yuan Zhou, “we want to engage more with policymakers on adopting recommendations.” If you would like to team up with us and help improve Nigerian ag R&D, please get in touch.
*Our photo shows (from l to r) panelists Lucky Omoigui (IITA), Audu Grema (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and Happiness Oselebe, Ebonyi State University.