The International Association of Research Scholars and Fellows (IARSAF) at IITA went on a working visit to selected national research institutes (NRIs) in Nigeria on 8-10 June.
The educative tour sought to identify challenges, opportunities, and possible innovative solutions to transfer knowledge for national development. The tour also served as an opportunity to meet IITA alumni working in such institutions and get success stories of IITA’s impact on their career journey.
The IARSAF team selected five key research institutes in Ibadan that play significant roles in ensuring sustainable food production and that could partner with IITA to achieve the mandate of transforming Africa’s agriculture as a pilot.
The institutes were the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NAGRAB), National Horticulture Research Institute (NIHORT), Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), and Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T).
The institutes warmly received the team, and sessions for constructive deliberations took place. The group visited the institutes to see ongoing activities and identify gaps they could leverage for collaboration with IITA.
At NAGRAB, the team visited the gene bank and the tissue culture and molecular biology laboratories. At NIHORT, the team went on a tour of the mushroom production unit, product development laboratory, citrus nursery and orchard, floriculture, and the soil laboratory. At FRIN, the team visited the entomology unit, dry and wet laboratory, value addition laboratory, production showroom, sericulture unit, and animal husbandry.
The cocoa plantation nursery field, flavor laboratory, cashew farm, and tea fields were visited at CRIN; while at IAR&T, after a brief meeting with the Executive Director, the team visited the seed bank.
The visit revealed that most NRIs need continuous upscaling in staff capacity development and require more funding to fulfill their mandate. During the interactive meetings, the Directors of each institute expressed an interest to partner with IITA in areas that need technical backstopping, such capacity development.
Dr Anthony Okere, the Deputy Director for Research and Development, NAGRAB, highlighted the need to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to seal a partnership, while Prof. Adeshola Adepoju, the Director-General of FRIN, and an IARSAF alumnus, emphasized the need for collaboration, after expressing excitement over the youth’s show of interest to explore and practice what they have been learning as early-career scientists. “We need you, young people, to change the narrative of the country’s economy,” he said.
IARSAF President Olakunle Sansa said “IARSAF is determined to open doors for the NRIs, particularly through the provision of facilitators and capacity development for NRI staff and initiating research activities.” He said this is expected to help improve the activities of the NRIs and foster collaboration with IITA to meet the goals of agricultural transformation in Nigeria and Africa at large.