As part of solutions to the challenges in agriculture, and to fast-track agro-economic development and diversify sustainably, a dedicated trust fund to finance agricultural research, which, in turn, will prop up new technologies and products, should be emplaced by the Federal Government.
This was the submission of the Acting Executive Director of the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Ilorin, Dr Patricia Pessu, while delivering a keynote at the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State, on Tuesday.
Speaking on 'Sustainable Diversification of Nigerian Economy through Agricultural Research,' Dr Pessu said a sustainable means to maintain agricultural research to deliver on their respective mandates is to come up with a central funding commission.
Pessu said: "The commission could be jointly funded by the government and the private sector. The tertiary education system of Nigeria has a funding body called the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). This could also be replicated for agricultural research, and such body could be named 'Agricultural Research Trust Fund (AGFund)."
She explained that the United States of America (USA), having realised the importance of agricultural research to its economy, set up a commission named Oklahoma Wheat Commission to coordinate all research activities on wheat in Oklahoma State.
Today, she added, the activities of the commission alone had been fetching the US government billions of dollar from wheat.
Similarly, she suggested research into animal immunisation, artificial insemination, biological control of pests, embryo transfer, genetic engineering, hydroponics, precision technologies, post-harvest physiology and tissue culture should be encouraged with greater funding to sustain the diversification into agriculture for future generations.
"There is need for more effective collaboration between the government, academia and industry for provision of technical and financial support to Nigeria's research institutions and scientists to drive agricultural support, which will catalyze transformative change, which will culminate in a sustainable and diversified economy," she advocated.
She also charged researchers to focus on the need to meet global food security goals by advancing productivity by supporting research to reduce production constraints, increasing yield potential for major crops and livestock; transforming key production systems through intensification in areas where poverty and under-nutrition are concentrated, as well as improving food safety and nutrition.
Dr Pessu also said it was high time to diversify, as Nigeria could not continue to rely on mono economy that is very dependent on crude oil and expect economic prosperity.
"The swings in oil prices and the precarious future it holds for nations' prosperity are enough and cogent signals to wake our nation up that something must be done and very urgently.
"Investment in agricultural research and development remains that very important action that must be taken which is cheaper, more enduring and more sustainable. That is a key factor to take the country away from poverty to prosperity," she argued.