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Tuesday, 02 May 2017

Nigeria’s agric institutes lag peers as poor funding hurts output

Research institutes are proving to be the weak link in Nigeria’s drive to diversify into agriculture and make exponential gains by way of earnings, employment and other spin-offs, experts say. The institutes are mandated to develop technologies and practices to improve farmers’ yields per hectare and ensure food security in Africa’s most populous nation. The institutes are however falling grossly short in this direction and lagging behind smaller peer nations, where agriculture is less of a priority. Experts say the key causes of this are underfunding, obsolete equipment and a failure to upgrade human capacity. “Less than five percent of the yearly budgetary allocation for agric research institutes goes into core research, while 70 percent goes into salaries and emoluments, with the remaining going into procurements, renovation and overheads,” Baba Yusuf Abubakar, professor of Animal Science, Federal University of Abuja told BusinessDay, in a telephone interview. “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 agriculture ministry shows that the research institutions got an average of N28 billion ($70m) yearly, in the last four years. Nigeria’s annual spend on its agric research institutes compares with India’s $2 billion, Brazil’s $1 billion and China’s $700 million, BusinessDay findings show. Abubakar, who was also the former executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), said to address the issues with the country agric research institutes, the ARCN, in collaboration with various stakeholders in the sector, drafted a policy document to amend the act, of which ARCN was established, which is yet to be passed into law by the National Assembly. Rotimi Fashola, senior partner, OIT Fash Consult, said, “without adequate research funding, government talk about boosting revenue through the sector will only be a mirage. “Today, most of the institutes are mere shadows of themselves,” Fashola added. A 2015 ActionAid report shows that Nigeria only invests $0.42 into agric research for every $100 of agric output, as compared to $0.94 and $1.40 in Ghana and Uganda respectively.

Source: Business Day Online