By Paul Efiong
Nigeria’s former President and IITA Goodwill Ambassador, Olusegun Obasanjo and Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, on Saturday commissioned two key projects at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan— an Agricultural Transformation Building dedicated to research and delivery of innovations to farmers across Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.
The second project is a 10.5Km ring road in Africa’s biggest international agricultural research center.
The construction of the building commenced in 2017 with a foundation laying ceremony officiated by former Nigerian heads of government, Yakubu Gowon, and Mr Obasanjo; and the President of the African Development Bank, Akin Adesina, as part of projects initiated to mark the 50th anniversary of IITA.
The building, which was funded by the African Development Bank through a Nigerian project— Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme (ATASP)— comprises 22 offices, 8 large laboratory spaces, a conference room, and a utility facility.
The 10.5Km road on the other hand covers part of the perimeter fence of the 1000-hectare campus of IITA. The road was constructed by the Oyo State government as part of efforts to support agricultural research.
Mr Ajimobi said the support given to IITA was in realization of the importance of agriculture to Oyo State, and the contribution of IITA to agricultural development in the state.
“Today Oyo state is the best place to invest and promote agriculture because we have IITA located in the state,” he said.
Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General, said the rejuvenation of IITA facility in Nigeria was crucial for the institute’s sustained efforts to transform agriculture on the continent.
“We are excited to see a state in Nigeria showing the example by supporting infrastructure in an international agricultural research center. This is not common, and we commend the government and people of Oyo State,” he said.
Dr Sanginga also commended the government of Nigeria and the AfDB for their support towards the construction of the building, adding that it would accelerate the pace of research and accommodate the best/critical human and material resource needed to bring transformation to the agricultural sector.
The event also witnessed the presentation of the Oyo State Agricultural Transformation Policy Framework.
Concerned by the poor performance of agriculture, Governor Ajimobi last year requested IITA to produce a policy document that would provide direction to the transformation of agriculture in the state in the next 25 years.
Based on this request, IITA worked with the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), the state ministry of agriculture, and the Oyo State Agricultural Development Programme to produce the framework.
Alfred Dixon, IITA director for development and delivery, said the framework situated Oyo State agriculture in context and examined the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to Oyo State’s key agriculture value chains.
“It also goes further to forecast the implication of policy intervening scenarios for government,” he added.
Dr Dixon said that Oyo state can capitalize on the policy framework to attract private capital in the agricultural space.
“It clearly defines what Oyo state needs to do to improve its agricultural productivity and achieve Zero Hunger,” he added.
He commended members of the Oyo state Government, NISER and IITA for their hard work in drawing up the policy document.
“May I also take this opportunity to thank His Excellency, Governor Ajimobi for giving us the opportunity to coordinate this effort,” he added.
In his remarks, Mr Obasanjo tasked Governor Ajimobi, IITA and NISER to work towards ensuring that recommendations in the policy framework were implemented by the incoming administration.
“Our problem is not policy formulation but implementation,” he said.
He commended Governor Ajimobi for supporting IITA and called for the extension of innovations generated from research stations to farmers.
He noted that there was a gap between research institutions and the ordinary smallholder farmers.
“And we need to close that gap to bring about agricultural transformation,” Mr Obasanjo said.