Centennial Federal College of Agriculture Executive Vice-President Dr (Ms.) Elizabeth Augustus spoke with Chief, Agro-Economics, FEMI IBIROGBA, about the college’s contributions to agricultural science, technology and workforce development in the sector, and other milestones; how the country can achieve food sufficiency and why research and investment are essential for agro-economic growth, youth employment and poverty reduction.
As an expert in agriculture and related issues, how can Nigeria ensure food security in the face of production challenges?
The basic essence of research is to solve problems, in particular, within the immediate society. We know what the problems are (which would have been worse), we only need carefully written resolution plans that will be executed in great detail. One thing that I can assure you without a doubt is that Nigeria has the human resources and the environmental capacities to ensure food security.
Institutions must be sufficiently empowered and supported to have a significant impact and to propose solutions. An enabling environment must be provided for the expertise to manifest the skills acquired, while individuals (especially those in the agricultural sector) must be more engaged in the cause of achieving food security in the country.
Nigeria has consistently allocated less than 10 percent of the annual budget to agriculture since the current government. entered, violating the Maputo declaration by no less than 10 percent. How is this affecting the sector? And how would you advise the government?
In the final analysis, I believe the laws are made by the people. This is because lawmakers are elected by the people to represent their localities, which is why we must first tone down the word âgovernmentâ as it applies to requests, as well as appraisals.
As I said before, an enabling environment is a prerequisite for agricultural growth, it includes the right policies, support and protection required. We need to get to a point where we detail the issues, craft sincere and achievable solutions, and call for implementation.
Lack of rural development has forced rural-urban migration of agricultural labor, affecting food production. How can this be mitigated?
Rural areas are our nation’s food baskets due to the extent of land available for cultivation and the enabling environment. But humans naturally desire a better quality of life at every stage, and without the production of the necessary development facilities targeted at both agricultural practice and improving living standards, such rural-urban migration will persist at the expense of agricultural growth.
What advice do you give to agricultural graduates and young people to get started in agribusiness?
First, I hope that these âagricultural graduatesâ have indeed acquired the skills necessary to excel in their field, and I mean essential skills like those taught at the Federal Agricultural College in Ibadan. With the right skills in place, I can only advise them to fortify themselves with the entrepreneurial cycle of business operations as it applies to agricultural businesses. Fortunately, our students are also equipped with entrepreneurial skills applicable to agribusiness, throughout their ND and HND programs. Commercial transactions require rigor, knowledge of the production and distribution chain and efficient management of resources. The skills required may vary depending on the agricultural product in question and the weather; they must be able to identify such cases. All of this should be their watchword, and while godliness may not be seen as essential in the business world, in particular, for making quick wins, it is the most important character that will ensure sustainability and gains that extend beyond a lifetime.
As the college continues to offer the best in all areas of agricultural innovations, we encourage aspiring students, entrepreneurs, youth and the general public to get involved, share and help move the college forward by creating a niche in academic standardization. This will help improve staff and student development to produce a mid-level workforce for rapid agricultural growth. It will also stimulate economic development at national and sub-national levels, and ultimately play a central role in ensuring the eradication of poverty in the country.
As the college celebrates its centenary, what are the milestones?
This can be described in two parts: the exploits since the inception and the achievements of the current administration of the College, which are not easy to summarize, due to the robust impacts recorded so far. However, we can highlight a few.
Since its inception, the College has always been involved and helped produce a well-trained agricultural workforce in areas such as extension services; offering short courses and training programs aimed at building the skills of Nigeria’s agricultural staff.
Our graduates are well equipped with the theoretical and practical skills necessary to easily excel in their areas of specialization. Almost every year, during their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), college graduates often develop agricultural machinery for local governments at their place of duty and they receive NYSC awards. The College built two soy threshers for the Ghana Crop Research Institute in 1994; soybean threshers for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which were distributed to the Agricultural Development Programs (ADP) of Kwara, Niger, Kaduna, Plateau and Benue; as well as a carob huller for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Oyo State.
We also have an endless list of impacts on agricultural production aimed at achieving food security, job creation and poverty eradication in Nigeria. Some of our production capacities include 200 acres of land for agricultural production, in addition to other farms cultivated towards food security. We produce rabbits, grasscutters and snails; and we have a university slaughterhouse for processing beef and other meat products. We produce fresh eggs, fish, sell college beef. We have a capacity of 800 laying hens, pens for 2000 broilers, and we have a barn of 200 to 250 piglets, fatteners and breeders. We have a garri processing unit, 1.5 hectares of corn / cassava intercropping, one hectare of coconut and one hectare of plantain as well as an oil palm production plant, to name a few. -a. These contribute to food production, research and the training of students and farmers.
The college is not, however, resting on its laurels. We remain committed to our vision, “Agriculture for autonomy”. As a result, the current administration has achieved significant success over the past two years. This, by the grace of God, is accomplished through the repositioning of the college through consolidation and innovations in research and development, the publication of the College Journal (Journal of Agriculture and Bio-Environmental Engineering), entrepreneurial training and acquisition of skills. skills, uninterrupted academic sessions, completion of student hostel renovation, introduction of virtual learning to keep students up to date with their academic work, stocking the college soil and microbiology / pest control labs with spectrometer, flame photometer, microscopes, reagents, autoclave and other analysis and bioassay facilities for teaching, student project analysis and college income generation.
We upgraded the college weather station for teaching, research and income generation, built a 1000-seat amphitheater to enhance teaching and learning in a conducive environment; purchased chairs for the units to improve comfort and productivity, renovated the main college hall, and restructured the college health center for better delivery of medical services.
Other achievements include empowering 400 young people and women through vocational training in different agricultural enterprises, construction of a 68-meter road and 140-meter drainage.
In addition, we have recently cultivated 4.0 ha of arable crops; 2.3 ha of arboriculture; 3.0 ha of vegetables, and raised 530 seedlings and produced 500 broilers.
We purchased six generators (4.8KVA) and the installation of 10 solar powered lights, office equipment, office tables, executive tables and conference meeting tables and chairs, among other achievements.
100 years of college involves a period of scientific agriculture in the southwest and Nigeria. Would you say it helped agriculture in Nigeria?
The deliberate introduction of science into agricultural practice is expected to limit drudgery, optimize production and revitalize the agricultural sector. As much as we can agree that we are not where we should be in terms of scientific / innovative farming practices, we will also admit that we are certainly not where we were.
With the intervention of institutions like ours, agricultural inputs and equipment are now manufactured at considerable rates, there are research results on safer, profitable, optimal and efficient farming practices. However, more should be done in the area of ââusing research, mechanization, calculation, agricultural forecasting and translation of results to achieve the best precision agriculture.
What are your plans to take college higher to help agriculture?
The plans and vision for the quorum are clear and properly articulated from the start, and by the grace of God we are working diligently on them and gradually achieving what we set out to do.
I have a vision to advance the college to carve out a niche in academic standardization and enhance staff and student development to produce a mid-level workforce for rapid agricultural and economic development at national levels and international.
We plan to provide innovative ideas to generate sizable income for the college through competitive production, storage and marketing of agricultural products; leading the college to an enviable level with a passion for success backed by integrity; work in tandem with the mission statement of the college, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, vis-Ã -vis the vision of Mr. Creation and Food Security .