Nigeria has long been heavily dependent on oil to drive its economy. But with today’s historically low oil prices, its economy is suffering and its leaders are looking towards other sources of revenue. With Nigeria’s abundant natural resources and potential, agriculture is an obvious choice.
Policy makers, including the president and the minister of agriculture, are recognizing that research in new technologies and innovations is crucial for the country to realize its agricultural potential, increase production, and grow economically. Nigerian agricultural research has not had much impact in the past, due to underfunding and institutional and human resource restraints. A new proposed reform is planned to turn this situation around—and ASTI data can serve as a catalyst.
An ASTI delegation, including ASTI head Nienke Beintema and senior research assistant Gao Lang, recently visited key partners in Nigeria. Although the purpose of the trip was mainly to help encourage progress on collecting new data, discussions quickly turned to the renewed emphasis on agricultural research and the plans for reforming the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN).
The vision for a reformed agricultural research system in Nigeria is bold: to model after the successful institutional structures of some of the world’s leading agricultural R&D councils, particularly the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). As ARCN Executive Secretary Prof. Baba Yusuf Abubakar, a key driver of the reform, explained, the reform would transform ARCN from a coordinating to a managing council, harmonizing the activities and funding of all 15 national agricultural research institutes with a single governing board and secretariat. It is expected that turning these research institutes into research centers will allow for better management of research activities, ensure delivery of demand-driven agricultural technology and innovation, reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks, and encourage a competitive and motivated staff.
The ASTI team and Abdullahi Mohammed Nasir, ASTI’s current focal point, discussed supporting capacity building for a strong monitoring and evaluation system in this new framework to enable the council to track progress in implementing its objectives.
The ASTI delegation also met with Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs and member of the Committee on Agriculture. Dr. Abdullahi is an ambassador for agricultural research and a champion of the proposed reform. It is a happy coincidence that Dr. Abdullahi is also a longtime friend of ASTI: he was previously special assistant to Prof. Abubakar and programme manager for planning and institutional development at ACRN. As such, he served as the key focal point for ASTI data collection in Nigeria before joining politics.
“Senator Abdullahi is very passionate about the role of agriculture, and the need for research and innovation,” Beintema said. “He realizes that agricultural transformation and growth are the twin motors of economic development, particularly with the fall in price of crude oil.”
ASTI’s institutional-level investment and human capacity data will play a key role in the strategic planning phase as well as for monitoring and evaluating the reform’s implementation. ASTI is currently updating its dataset for Nigeria, which has been expanded to include output indicators. The new datasets and Nigerian factsheet are expected to be released over the next couple of months.
As Dr. Abdullahi said, “The country has to move from an oil dollar to an agricultural dollar. In the beginning there was agriculture, and in the end there will be agriculture.”
For more information on ASTI's work in Nigeria, see the ASTI Nigeria page.