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Communique of the International Conference and Expo on Research and Innovations in Agriculture (ICERIA 2019)

The International Conference and Expo on Research and Innovations in Agriculture (ICERIA 2019) by AGROBUSINESS TIMES was successfully hosted and held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, on October 24, 2019. The theme of the conference and expo was "Harnessing Sustainable Agricultural Innovations for Economic Development".

The 1-day conference had the presence of 125 persons in attendance cutting across the academia and research institutes, the diplomatic community, media, government and world bank intervention projects/programmes, the private sector and farmers, agricultural associations and societies, NGOs and Not-for-Profit Organizations, and other major stakeholders within the agricultural sector.

The conference had Mr. Taiwo Obe as Chairman, Mr. John Ogunlela as Moderator and Dr. Kanayo Nwanze (former IFAD President) as Keynote Speaker, who in his speech stated that “We should not expect Nigeria’s transformation to be brought out from foreign direct investments and partnerships. We must do it ourselves".

PRESENTATIONS AND DISCUSSIONS:

Panelists from the research sector, government and the private sector participated in the panel discussions. Presentations were made on the following:


  • Breakthroughs and innovations in agricultural research, the IITA model.

  • How the Netherlands became leader in agricultural innovations worldwide.

  • Climate change and food security: The role of climate smart agriculture.

  • How research outcomes reach farmers and market place.



Discussants focused on innovations, findings, efforts, challenges and how the sub-sector can be advanced to promote economic development. They also spoke on challenges and how research findings can be commercialized.

It was unanimously agreed that research and innovations in the agricultural sector is pivotal to the nation's economic development, and that collaboration is key to sustainable agricultural growth. All deliberations are summarized in the following recommendations and resolutions:

RECOMMENDATIONS AND RESOLUTIONS:

  • Collaboration among the government, research institutes, farmers and processors in order to reap the economic benefits in the agricultural industry is key. It is important to also ensure that agro-industries are sited in rural areas where they can add more value, as this is germane to enhancing food security and economic advancement.


  • Creation of sustainable agriculture systems that would encourage improved yield should be promoted so as to bring about self-sufficiency in the agricultural sector which has immense benefits for the country.


  • The federal government should not expect Nigeria’s transformation to happen through foreign direct investments and partnerships, we must do it ourselves.


  • The federal government should develop policies that would distinguish the country in the areas of innovation, research and export of agricultural products.


  • Government should ensure sustainable financing of all sectors involved in agricultural research and development. Funds are also needed to scale up the adoption of research findings and finance the establishment of demonstration farms.


  • The agriculture sector remains the largest employer of labour. Therefore, government should make agriculture attractive to young men and women to appreciate it as an economic activity and money-making business.


  • Participants advocated for an annual gathering of stakeholders within the sector for more discuss towards harnessing and optimizing research outcomes and innovations that could shape the industry and advance the nation's economy.


  • Farmers are encouraged to engage more in integrated farming to save cost and maximize profit while agriculture centres should commence work on waste-to-wealth programmes and projects.


  • The need for elaborate mechanized farming schemes by government was noted. Discussants also emphasized that government should encourage cooperative farming, within the ambit of cooperative society, as this would engender competitive advantage where each state of the federation, backed by government funding and adequate research can continue to develop and produce specific crops different from that of other states.


  • There is a need to pay close attention to the quality of waste within each ecosystem, and take action appropriately.


  • Government should provide more support for both subsistence farmers and commercial farmers because of their critical roles in achieving food security.


  • Government should set up training institutes for Farmers because lots of Nigerians are getting into farming without proper training.


  • Research institutions need to understand the business of commercializing research outcomes and innovations. They also need to understand research, synergy, collaboration and its benefits.


  • There is the need to think at a scale that can solve our national problems considering the huge population of unemployed youths (over 40 million) in the country, and agriculture is a viable solution.


  • Farmers within the agriculture sector must be organized. There is also the need to build a bridge between farmers and research institutes.


  • The government should further create an enabling environment for the private sector (particularly farmers) to drive the business of agriculture in the country. Also, farmers should be properly engaged in the policy-making process because of their vital roles in the agriculture sector; farmers should be allowed to proffer solutions to how the business of food production can be made viable for them and the nation.


  • The government should handover moribund farm settlements to farmers associations as they are very willing to revive and turn them to farm estates.


  • Government should plan innovative ways of guarding the nation’s border to protect our economy rather than closing the border completely.


  • Commercialisation of research outcomes requires huge capital and investments.


  • Research institutes should not allow profit-making to overtake their mandates. Most research outcomes and innovations in agriculture are beyond the reach of Nigerian farmers as they are very expensive. Accordingly, research institutes are encouraged to come up with commercially viable products.


  • Agriculture in tertiary institutions should be designed to be a profitable venture in order to make it attractive to young Nigerians. Students in tertiary institutions studying agriculture should have on-the-farm training as part of their curriculum before they graduate. Business courses that will enable stakeholders in the agricultural sector to be more grounded in the business of agriculture should be introduced into the education curriculum as well.


  • For agriculture to succeed and to ensure food security, government should focus on smallholder farmers due to lots of issues like expensive seedlings, lack of financial inclusion, and lack of proper financial structures that will enable financial inclusion in rural areas.


  • Government should ensure the continuity of impactful policies so that farmers’ trust in the government can be sustained.


  • Government should begin to engage and invest towards advancing the deployment of climate smart agricultural innovations to ensure food security.


  • Agricultural institutions and farmers should mechanize their operations as this will reduce workforce that could be channeled into other value chains.


  • No nation was ever able to transform into an industrial economy without first experiencing an agrarian transformation. It is thus imperative for our governments both at the Federal and State levels to give priority attention to the agricultural sector. Private sector actors are also encouraged to be the main drivers for the transformation of agriculture and the government should put in place enabling and consistent policies in support of agribusiness.


  • If Nigeria’s resources can be properly harnessed, we can become the next global leader because we are seating on gold mine- agriculture.



 


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