The need for government to fund researches has once again been highlighted as according to Prof. Michael Chukwuneke Madukwe, a professor of Agricultural Extension at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, researchers will continue to do the bidding of those who sponsor them, which in most cases, have no relevance to the society.
Prof. Madukwe says there is an urgent need for researchers to come together with all the relevant stakeholders especially in agriculture, before embarking on any research that will impact the economy positively.
According to Prof Madukwe, who holds special interest in agro-technology transfer policy and agricultural innovation system, “agriculture has two major areas – agric economics and extension which deals with human issues in agriculture.
He says “In extension, we look at technologies that have been developed from crop, soil and animal sciences and then see how they are arranged or rearranged to become useful to rural farmers. I work on agricultural administration systems, looking at systems of innovations in agriculture in Nigeria, how agriculture could be reorganised to become more efficient and more useful to farmers and society.”
Continuing, he says “In my studies, I discovered a disconnection between what researchers are doing and farm practices.
There is what we call innovation system in agriculture, talking about key actors within the agricultural administration system. You have policymakers, finance institutions, farmers, researchers and marketers. All these actors play a role in driving that system.”
On policy gaps and the way forward he says what you find in Nigeria is that while farmers are doing their thing, researchers and university lecturers stay out somewhere doing something that has no relevance to the needs of farmers adding that to have linkage,the following must be put in place things must be put in place:
“One, research funding. You don’t fund research that is not emanating from the farmers’ problems, otherwise, you will be wasting money. There should be rules and regulations preventing research institutions and university researchers from doing research for its sake, it should be addressing real farmers’ problems. If you stay in your laboratory and develop a technology that nobody actually needs, it will be difficult to sell. So if you identify a problem, invite the key stakeholders in that problem. Take for example the issue of refrigeration of farm produce; you want to do a solar refrigerator for preserving tomatoes. If you go into your lab and produce it, no farmer will touch it but if at the conception of that research, you brought together farmers, those who will produce the machine and those who will finance the production, and the farmer says ‘this is exactly what I need’ and the financier says ‘if you do it this way, I will put in N10.00′ and then the researcher says ‘well, if you put in N10.00, that will give us this’; you arrive at something. As they are producing it, the farmer is asking for it, the person that will invest his money will willingly do so because he knows he is going to make profit. But if you don’t, by the time you finish in your lab and bring it out, the farmer first of all, does not know you are solving a problem, you may have to spend extra time and money trying to convince him. You don’t do research that way. It is only in Africa you find such. “In the US, you don’t say you are doing research without tackling real problems. But because government is not funding research, you find a researcher who wants promotion sourcing grants from outside. So if you get a grant from outside, you have to do their bidding. The areas they are interested in may not be relevant to our national needs. But if you also have to use your money to do research, you do research that you can publish, not the one that will solve societal problems. So there are policy gaps we need to look at,” said Madukwe. Bringing researchers and end-users closer: “The system of promotion in the university must have to change, government’s position and the rules/regulations for funding research in Nigeria must also change if we have to bring researchers and end-users closer,” he said. Harping on the need for collaborations, Prof. Madukwe said although it is costly, but it is a necessity. Said he: “For collaborations, there is a cost, for example, if I want to do a study on yams at UNN, nobody will expect me to use my money and go to yam-producing communities to buy yam. Somebody has to fund that initial move – transport fare, accommodation, organising a meeting with farmers to see their problems and decide on the ones I will put my energy into. “There is some level of funding to help that networking within the agricultural system for things to move. Today’s economy is knowledge-driven, so the more money you put into education, research and retraining, the greater the growth of the economy. I don’t see why an industry like agriculture should not fast-track development in this country.” Solution to unemployment: “We need just seven months to stop unemployment in Nigeria. Rice can be grown in five months and under seven to 12 weeks, you can raise poultry. We can assemble some of these degree and school cert holders from across the local government areas and do a two-week training program for them and they will start production. What do they need? They need backing – money for day-old chicks, feed, structure, already paid for and a little collateral. You set up another facility to buy, package and freeze the products and hit the West Africa market. I believe we can capture the broiler market within two months and government has a role to play. Also, oil palm is another crop. The south-east states can mount a three-year campaign, replacing all the old palm trees with new ones. By the third, fourth year, you are harvesting. Nigeria will be exporting palm oil. All government needs to do is to provide the policies, the financial backing and the market.”
Written by Ebele Orakpo