Dr. Elizabeth Augustus (Executive Provost of 100-year-old Federal College of Agriculture) spoke with FEMIIBIROGBA’s Head, Agro-Economy on the college’s contributions in agricultural science, technology and human resource development. They also discussed how the country can achieve food sufficiency, as well as why research and investments are crucial for agro-economic and youth employment, and poverty alleviation.
Expert in agriculture and related matters, how can Nigeria become secure in food production?
The essence of research is to solve problems, especially within the immediate society. We don’t have to be ignorant of the problems (which would make them worse), but we do need to create resolution plans that are detailed and will be implemented. One thing I can guarantee you is that Nigeria has the human resources and environmental capabilities to achieve food security.
Institutions must have the right support and empowerment to make an impact and provide solutions. A supportive environment must be created for people to develop their skills. Individuals, especially those in agriculture, need to be more dedicated to the cause to ensure food security in the country.
Since the current government took office, Nigeria has consistently allocated less than 10% of its annual budget to agriculture. In contravention of the Maputo Declaration, which requires that agriculture receive no less than 10%, this was brought in. How does this impact the sector? What advice would you give the government?
Let me conclude that laws are made in the name of the people. This is because the people elect the legislators to represent their localities. Therefore, we must first deemphasize the word government. It applies queries as well as appraisals.
As I mentioned earlier, a conducive environment is a prerequisite for agricultural growth. This includes support, policies and protection. We must reach a point where we can identify the problems and create practical solutions.
Rural development has been poor, which has impacted food production by forcing rural-urban migration of farm labour force. How can this be reduced?
Because of the large amount of land available for cultivation, and the favorable environment, rural areas are the food baskets in our country. However, humans desire a better quality life at all stages of their lives. Without the production of developmental facilities to improve agricultural practice and living standards, rural-to urban migration will continue to harm agricultural growth.
What advice would you give to young graduates of agriculture?
First, I hope that such agricultural graduates have the skills necessary to excel in their fields. I am referring to the skills taught at the Federal College of Agriculture Ibadan. I can only recommend that they learn the entrepreneurial cycle of agricultural business operations once they have the necessary skills. Our students are equipped with the entrepreneurial skills necessary to run agribusiness. This is evident through both their ND and HND programmes. The ability to manage resources efficiently and with diligence is essential for business transactions. They must be able recognize such instances, regardless of the agricultural product being used. These are their key characteristics. While Godliness is not essential for business, especially in making quick profits, it is vital to ensure long-term sustainability and gains that last a lifetime.
We encourage students, entrepreneurs, youths, as well as the general public to get involved and share in the college’s progress. This will ensure that the college continues to be a leader in agricultural innovation. This will improve the quality of staff and students to produce middle-level agricultural workers. It will also increase economic development at the national as well as subnational level and ultimately play a pivotal part in ensuring poverty elimination in the country.
What are the major achievements of the college as it celebrates its centenary?
This can be broken down into two parts: The achievements since inception and the achievements by the current administration of College. These are both difficult to describe because of the impressive impacts. We may, however, highlight a few.
Since its inception, College has been involved with, and contributed towards, the production of highly skilled agricultural manpower in areas like extension services. It also offers short courses and training programs aimed at increasing the capabilities of Nigerian agricultural personnel.
Our graduates have the theoretical and practical skills necessary to excel in their chosen areas. Nearly every year, college graduates are awarded NYSC awards and develop agricultural machines for local governments during their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Two soybean threshers were constructed by the College in 1994 for Ghana Crop Research Institute. Also, soybean threshers was built for Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. This was distributed to Kwara and Niger and Kaduna, Plateau and Benue Agricultural Development Programmes.
We also have endless agricultural production benefits that will help us achieve food security, job growth, and poverty elimination in Nigeria. Our production capabilities include 200 acres of land for crop cultivation, as well as other cultivated farms to ensure food security. We raise cane rats, snails, and rabbits. Our college abattoir is used to process beef and other products. Fresh eggs, fish and beef are all produced in the college. We have an 800-layer bird-capacity, 2000 broiler pens, and a piggery pen with 200-250 piglets, growers, and breeders. We have a garri processing unit, 1.5 hectares maize/cassava intercrop and one hectare coconut, as well as an oil palm production plant. These units are used to produce food, train farmers and conduct research.
The college is not content with her achievements. We are still committed to our vision of Agriculture for Self-Reliance. In the last few years, the current administration has achieved significant success. The grace of God has enabled the college to reposition itself through innovations in research and development, publication of College Journal (Journal of Agriculture and Bio-Environmental Engineering), uninterrupted academic sessions, renovation of students’ hostels, introduction of virtual learning to keep them abreast of their academic work, stocking of soil and microbiology/pest management labs with spectrometers, flame photometers, microscopes, reagents and other analytical and bio-assay equipment for teaching, project analysis and revenue generation for the college.
We have improved the college’s meteorological station to teach, research, and generate revenue. A 1000-seater lecture theater was constructed to enhance learning and teaching in a supportive environment. We also purchased chairs for units to increase comfortability and productivity. The college main hall was renovated and the College Health Centre was restructured to improve medical service delivery.
Other accomplishments include the empowerment of 400 youths and women through vocational training in various agricultural enterprises, construction a 68-metre road, and 140-metre drainage.
We also cultivated 4.0 ha of arable crops; 2.3%-ha of tree plants; 3.0-ha vegetable crops; and raised 530 seedlings. 500 broilers were also produced.
We purchased six (4.8KVA), generators, and installed 10 solar-powered lights, office fittings and tables, as well as conference tables and chairs.
100 years of the college means a period of scientific agricultural in the southwest and Nigeria. Would you agree that this has helped Nigerian agriculture?
The deliberate application of science to agricultural practice is expected reduce drudgery, optimize production, and revitalize the agricultural sector. As much as we may agree that we are not where we should be in terms of scientific/innovative agricultural practices, we will equally admit that we are certainly not where we used to be.
Thanks to the efforts of institutions like ours farm inputs and machinery can now be manufactured at a significant rate. Research outputs on safer, more cost-effective, optimum, and more efficient agricultural practices are now available. To achieve precision agriculture, there is still much to be done in areas such as research uptake, mechanisation and computation, agricultural predictions, and translation of results.
What are your plans for the college to be more agriculturally-oriented?
The college’s vision and plans are clearly and accurately articulated from the beginning. We are now diligently working towards achieving the goals we set.
I have a vision to take the college forward, to create a niche in academic standardisation, improve on staff development, and produce middle-level labor for rapid agricultural and economic development at both national and international level.
We will provide innovative ideas to generate appreciable revenue for college through effective production storage and competitive marketing of agricultural products; lead college to an enviable level with a passion to succeed backed by integrity; work in tandem to the mission statement of college, Agricultural Research Council of Nigerian (ARCN), and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, vis -vis the vision of Mr. Presidential on Green Alternative and Agricultural Transformation Agenda, for job creation and food safety.