Funding agricultural R&D and meeting the MDG target

Member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will need to significantly increase their investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) to achieve the aim of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty by 2015.

Women selling yam, Ghana. Photo by IITA.
Investment in agricultural R and D needs to be increased to ensure Africa's food supplies. Photo by IITA.

The focus on agricultural R&D stems from the fact that, for all ECOWAS countries, more than half of a 1% reduction in poverty at the national and rural levels can be attributed to the growth of the agricultural sector.

A study by the IITA-led Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System West Africa (ReSAKSS-WA) finds that to achieve this remarkable agricultural growth, countries in this regional bloc will have to almost double their current share of agricultural spending.

On average, an agricultural funding growth rate of 18.3% is required to achieve the target 6% rate set out by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). However, successful reform of public institutions could lower this share substantially, according to a report by Mbaye Yade and colleagues.

About CAADP
CAADP was initiated in 2002 by the African Union. It is a strategic framework which guides the development efforts and partnerships of African countries in the agricultural sector. It has, among others, the following objectives and principles at its core: agriculture-led growth for poverty reduction; increased funding for agriculture (10%), and at least 6% agriculture growth, all aimed at achieving MDG1 and other welfare targets; greater efficiency and consistency in the planning and execution of sector policies and programs; increased effectiveness in translating government expenditure into public goods and services; and expertise and mechanisms to measure performance against objectives regularly and transparently, and keep policies and programs on track.

ReSAKSS-WA works with ECOWAS to provide strategic analysis, knowledge management and communications, and capacity strengthening, towards achieving the aims of CAADP.

To promote monitoring and evaluation, the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development requested ReSAKSS to develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework which would guide the continent in implementing CAADP.

Working with national and international partners, ReSAKSS has since backstopped some member countries in developing their National Agricultural Investment Programs (NAIPs) with this aim in view.

Current scenario
The ReSAKSS study shows that, under current trends, expected performance in agricultural growth is projected to stabilize at around 4.4% by 2015. However, with the successful implementation of emerging national strategies for the sector, agricultural growth is expected to increase to 6.4% from 4.6% under a business-as-usual scenario. Even the CAADP target of 6% annual agricultural growth for each country is not sufficient to achieve MDG1 by 2015, except for Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, and Senegal. Therefore, other plans with additional efforts are projected for the other countries.

The first M&E report from ReSAKSS indicated that the average share of agriculture in the 2005–2008 period was 10% and above in Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, and Mali. It was below 10% in Bénin, Gambia, Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire. With regard to the planned 6% growth in agriculture, the average rate for Gambia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone in the 2003–2007 period was 6% and above. For all other West African countries, the average was below 6%. Apart from the incidence of stunting among children, all major indicators of welfare show an overall improvement in living standards in the 2000s compared with the 1990s.

Incidence of poverty in West Africa has decreased by about 18% in the 2000s, according to a study. Photo by IITA.
Incidence of poverty in West Africa has decreased by about 18% in the 2000s, according to a study. Photo by IITA.

The incidence of poverty using the international threshold for comparison—the US$1/person/day—decreased by 18% in the 2000s compared with the 1990s. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 35% between 1990 and 2008. The Global Hunger Index shows a 14% decrease from the 1990–2009 value. Overall, it seems that recent trends in welfare have been positive in West Africa.

What the future holds
Regional Agricultural Investment Programs (RAIP) under CAADP are being prepared and will be funded through various mechanisms. IITA should work closely with the regional economic communities or RECs in preparing such programs because of the Institute’s wealth of experience in R4D work aimed at increasing agricultural productivity in Africa, in particular with ECOWAS in priority crops, such as cassava, maize, and rice. Already some discussions are taking place but these should be increased. Given the poverty challenges facing West Africa and Africa in general, all avenues for productive collaboration should be explored.

To implement the Africa-wide M&E system, the system has to be adapted in each West African country. Two requirements for this are the establishment of a SAKSS in each country, and consequently, the inclusion of the M&E indicators in the SAKSS and country’s annual reports and surveys.

This would make M&E a routine and important activity carried out annually. In turn, this would provide each country with the opportunity to ascertain how much progress is being made and to change the aspects of a strategy that are not working in a timely manner.

Outcome mapping: a tool for monitoring and evaluation

E.A. Ouma, e.a.ouma@cgiar.org and G.A. Neba, george.akwahneba@iucn.org

IITAroutinely measures impact resulting from its R4D projects and programs. Photo by IITA.
IITA routinely measures impact resulting from its R4D projects and programs. Photo by IITA.

Many development practitioners are preoccupied with the identification and measurement of impact resulting from their research-for-development projects or programs. In many high-level meetings, the importance of results-based management that is goal-oriented and that emphasizes cause and effect of inputs, outputs, and impacts, has been emphasized and a large number of methodological guidelines have been developed.

One such guideline is the Logical Framework Approach (LFA). It is a hierarchical linear causal-effect chain presented at four levels (activities, outputs, outcomes, and impact). It is concrete and encourages the clear formulation of outcomes and goals/impact and the precise definition of quantifiable targets. Its major weakness is the attribution of cause and effect between the levels of outcome and impact (Jones 2006). In reality, this cannot be conclusively determined. Most impacts occur a long way downstream and may not be directly influenced by a single actor. In addition, the linear cause–effect thinking in LFA is a rather strong assumption and has been criticized by many practitioners.

The weaknesses in the existing tools, particularly in the monitoring and evaluation of developmental impacts, motivated the International Development Research Centre to develop a different approach, referred to as outcome mapping.

Figure 1. Boundary partner's link to the program and the real world.
Figure 1. Boundary partner's link to the program and the real world.

Outcome mapping
Outcome mapping is a method for planning and assessing the social effects and internal performance of projects, programs, and organizations (Earl et al. 2001). It helps a project or program team to be specific about its targets, the changes it expects to see, and the strategies it employs, and as a result, to be more effective in terms of the results it achieves. Results are measured in terms of changes in the behaviors of people, groups, and organizations, also known as “boundary partners” (Fig. 1) with which a project/program works directly. The project/program works with the boundary partners to effect a change but it does not control them.

The changes are referred to as outcomes. In so doing, outcome mapping clears away many of the myths about measuring impact and focuses more on social changes within complex and dynamic partnerships. Once boundary partners have been identified, outcome mapping differentiates the levels of behavioral change which may be seen among the partner organizations—known as progress markers. These are grouped according to expected behaviors (early positive responses), desired behaviors (active engagement), and hoped-for behaviors (deep transformation in behavior) (Shaxson and Clench 2011). In the vocabulary of outcome mapping, these are behaviors we would ‘expect to see”, “like to see”, and “love to see” and they may be priorities for change or a time sequence of activities, or a mixture of both (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Progress markers of a boundary partner. Source: Jones 2006.
Figure 2. Progress markers of a boundary partner. Source: Jones 2006.

Attribution and measurement of downstream results are dealt with through a more direct focus on transformations in the actions of the main actors. The outcomes enhance the possibilities of developmental impacts but the relationship is not necessarily a direct one of cause and effect. The outcomes can be logically linked to a project’s activities although they are not necessarily directly caused by them. Outcome mapping, therefore, focuses on the contribution of a project in the achievement of outcomes rather than claiming the achievement of developmental impacts.

The development of M&E tools (both qualitative and quantitative) for assessing outcomes and impact on commodity systems, including outcome mapping and participatory impact pathway, was identified as an output target for IITA’s Opportunities and Threats Program in 2011 (IITA 2009). This highlights the importance of developing tools not only for documenting technology adoption trends and impact but also those that monitor outcomes, providing stakeholders with timely information about their progress and achievements for systematic and collective learning, reflection, and corrective action.

A few R4D projects at IITA have employed outcome mapping or some of its elements in their M&E framework. For instance, the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihood in Central Africa project, largely operating in the East and Central African highlands, follows the spirit of outcome mapping in its arrangements to scale out technology. The boundary partners, comprising international and national NGOs and farmers’ associations, articulate their goals, expectations, and contributions through informal or formal memoranda of agreement with the project. The project endeavors to meet the partners’ expectations through jointly planned activities to achieve the expected outcomes, which have prospects of producing sustainable impacts.
Opportunities for interactions between a boundary partner and the project and among the boundary partners are made available for collective learning, to evaluate progress towards the achievement of goals over time, and to identify corrective measures.

Other CGIAR centers, particularly the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the World Agroforestry Centre, apply outcome mapping in their natural resource management and livestock projects.

Stages of outcome mapping and monitoring tools
The process is divided into three stages. The first, referred to as the intentional design phase, is largely a planning stage. This helps a project to establish a consensus on the macro-level changes it will help to bring about and to plan the strategies it will use. It is based on the principle of participation and purposefully includes those implementing the project in the design and data collection so as to encourage ownership and use of the findings. It involves articulation of the vision and mission of the project, the identification of the boundary partners, the outcome challenges, progress markers, and strategies to be employed for changing the behavior of boundary partners to better deliver the progress markers. Supportive strategies facilitate change, possibly by one partner providing information, capacity, or skills to others.

The second stage is outcome and performance monitoring. It provides a framework for an ongoing monitoring of the projects’ actions and the boundary partners’ progress toward the achievement of outcomes. It is largely based on a systematized self-assessment and uses monitoring tools for elements identified in the design stage. The tools include an outcome journal (for monitoring progress markers), a strategy journal (for monitoring the strategy maps) and a performance journal (for monitoring the organizational practices).

The third stage is evaluation planning. It helps the project to identify evaluation priorities and develop an evaluation plan (this targets priority areas for detailed evaluation studies).

Strengths and weaknesses
Outcome mapping provides a focus on institutional transformation that is often lacking in techniques which emphasize the delivery of outputs as an indicator of achievement. It aligns itself with the realities of development, often occurring in complex and open systems with multiple actors. The methodology ensures the clear formulation of responsibilities, roles, and progress markers for each project partner in addition to providing a framework and the tools for continuous monitoring. Measurable outcomes and clear milestones enhance ownership by the local actors and beneficiaries as well as the management of multiple accountabilities (project, beneficiaries, partners, and donors).

Outcome mapping’s one-dimensional focus on “changes in behavior”, although important to sustainable development, cannot be an end in itself for development. The behavioral changes should support improvements in situations at a higher level. There is a need to have clear hypotheses about the framework, tools, and indicators for impact at the level of development results (such as the MDGs). Roduner et al. (2008) have proposed a synthesized model combining the strengths of outcome mapping focusing on capacity building and the logical framework with its focus on development results. The synthesized model has, however, not yet been tested.

References
Earl S, T Smutylo, and F Carden. 2001. Outcome mapping: Building learning and reflection into development programs. IDRC, Ottawa, Canada.

Jones H. 2006. Making outcome mapping work. Evolving Experiences from Around the World. IDRC, Ottawa, Canada. http://bit.ly/19zzsH.

Roduner D, W Schläppi, and W Egli. 2008. Logical Framework Approach and Outcome Mapping: A Constructive Attempt of Synthesis. A Discussion Paper, ETH, Zurich, Switzerland.

Shaxson L, and B Clench. 2011. Outcome mapping and social frameworks: tools for designing, delivering and monitoring policy via distributed partnerships. Delta Partnership working paper No 1, www.deltapartnership.com.

New Director General

IITA has a new Director General: Dr Nteranya E. Sanginga.

Director General Nteranya Sanginga. Photo by IITA.
Director General Nteranya Sanginga. Photo by IITA.

Dr Bryan Harvey, chair of IITA’s Board of Trustees, said, “Dr Sanginga was selected from an outstanding group. His achievements in reinvigorating the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute (TSBF) of the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), and tropical experience make him an ideal choice to take on the much broader task of guiding IITA into the next decade.”

“We are confident that under his administration IITA will continue its outstanding work in improving the lives of the tropical people in Africa and throughout the world,” he added.

Having served as the Director of the Nairobi-based CIAT-TSBF, Dr Sanginga has more than 21 years of experience with the University of Zimbabwe, IITA, International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria, and CIAT-TSBF, in agricultural research and development, particularly in the fields of applied microbial ecology, plant nutrition, and integrated natural resources management in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

Dr Sanginga is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He did most of his postgraduate training at IITA and his PhD in Agronomy/Soil Microbiology under a joint program between IITA and the Institut Facultaire des Sciences Agronomiques, Yangambi, DRC.

He has extensive skills in research management, developing partnerships and institutional linkages, and institution building. Under his leadership, the CIAT-TSBF portfolio rose from $1.2 million in 2003 to over $14.5 million in 2010. Its research-for-development agenda expanded from focusing on western Kenya to covering the major agroecosystems of east, central, and southern Africa.

He has also played a major role in the creation of the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihood in Central Africa (CIALCA) that includes three international research centers (IITA, CIAT-TSBF, and Bioversity), university partners in Belgium, national research and development partners in DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda.

During his career he has also focused on building the capacity of young scientists in Africa. He has trained more than 30 PhD candidates at the National University of Congo, School of Agriculture and the University of Zimbabwe, who now hold leadership positions in their countries.

Dr Sanginga had spent 14 years in IITA in various capacities, including principal scientist and head of the soil microbiology unit; project coordinator; and leader of a multidisciplinary program, collaborating with many scientists in national and international institutions.

Dr Sanginga succeeds Dr Hartmann effective November 2011.

IITA’s new social science research agenda

Social science research is one of the major disciplinary areas supporting innovation processes at IITA for achieving a sustainable reduction in food security and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. As a core instrument targeting the poor, agricultural research requires a social science context to ensure its relevance in the processes of discovery, adaptation, adoption, and diffusion of new technologies, policies, and institutions. Understanding and overcoming the challenges facing the poor in sub-Saharan Africa is important in achieving greater impacts through agricultural research.

Social science research at IITA aims to lift 20-25 million out of poverty by 2020. Photo by IITA.
Social science research at IITA aims to lift 20-25 million out of poverty by 2020. Photo by IITA.

Objectives
The new social science agenda in IITA aims to contribute to the Institute’s goal of lifting 20–25 million out of poverty in Africa by 2020 through the following:
• Gender-disaggregated agricultural research priorities defined through ex ante analyses of impact and commodity situation and outlook
• Improved understanding of the social, cultural, gender, and economic dynamics and determinants of agricultural transformation, rural livelihood strategies, and pathways out of poverty
• Improved understanding of gender-differentiated end-user preferences and the extent, determinants, and pathways of adoption of technological innovations for guiding technology development and delivery efforts
• Alternative institutional arrangements and policy options relating to technology delivery, input supply, and output markets identified and advocated for increased market participation and commercialization among the poor and the marginalized.

Focus of the new agenda
First, social science research establishes a strong knowledge base through geospatial analysis as well as studies of strategic impact and commodity outlook. All these contribute to an increased understanding of the drivers of agricultural transformation and the role of agricultural technology. These guide investments in agricultural research and complementary public goods for agricultural growth and poverty reduction. For example, smallholder production and marketing constraints and opportunities vary according to existing agroecological and socioeconomic circumstances. Thus, descriptions of smallholders’ production systems and analysis of critical production constraints and opportunities, with an assessment of the prospects of alternative investments and technological solutions, are important instruments for priority setting and targeting of research investments for the increased effectiveness of agricultural research and an improved impact.

Secondly, social science research generates knowledge on end-user technology preferences through on-farm participatory evaluation—involving farmers, traders, and processors—and consumer preference studies and market demand analyses. Social science research also assesses early adoption and the impacts of technologies to track the pathways and extent of adoption, to measure adopter-level gains in yield and income, and to identify the socioeconomic, infrastructural, institutional, and policy factors promoting or hindering the adoption of technology. Efforts aimed at raising the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers involve developing technologies that address key production constraints and have the traits that are preferred by various end-users.

A researcher conducting a training for farmers. Photo from SP-IPM.
A researcher conducting a training for farmers. Photo from SP-IPM.

Several social, economic, institutional, policy, and infrastructural factors may hinder the uptake of profitable technologies. Addressing the priorities and constraints facing smallholder farmers and other actors along the value chain is the necessary condition for greater technology uptake and impacts. On the other hand, early adoption studies documenting the extent and determinants—such as socioeconomic and institutional factors—of the uptake of IITA’s technologies and adopter-level productivity and income gains provide important information, not only for evaluating the adoption potential of new technologies but also for enhancing adoption and impacts through improved policies and institutions. Not only are there gender differentials in technology adoption but technology adoption may also have differential effects within and across households, due to the influence of social structures, and gender imbalances in access to productive assets and support services.

Thirdly, social science research identifies alternative institutional arrangements and policy options for improved technology delivery, input supply, and output markets with a view to enhancing smallholders’ income gains through increased market participation and commercialization with significant feedback effects on technology adoption. Here, niche markets and other high-value product markets are identified and strategies for linking smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs to such markets are promoted. Institutional arrangements and frameworks for enhancing efficiency along input supply and product value chains are identified and promoted.

Fourthly, international research institutes, such as IITA, are confronted with the task of developing prototype technology options and other innovations, usually from specific sites but with an expected applicability to a wider environment for achieving greater impacts. Generic technologies from specific sites must prove successful in their sites of origin but should also indicate high potentials for adaptability in similar areas outside the research sites. The whole issue about the targeting of innovations is to improve our understanding of the processes and strategies that could facilitate the adaptability of generic technologies to a wider environment to achieve significant impact.

Two broad approaches that are complementary for achieving impact are considered: the “geographic” targeting and the “social” scaling of innovations. The geographic targeting applies GIS, GPS, and remote sensing tools to define recommendation domains through aggregating information to higher spatial levels. The social scaling considers the scale-dependency of organizational and policy parameters; it refers to the transfer of the appropriate knowledge to each organizational level through a better understanding of the social and policy processes involved in the adoption and adaptation of innovations.

Fifthly, social science research measures the long-range impacts of IITA’s research investments on food and nutrition security and poverty reduction, thus demonstrating accountability to donors as well as providing feedback to the research process. With improved targeting of technology development and delivery, the benefits of social science research are thus realized through increased adoption and impacts of the products of IITA’s research.

Scientist explaining the concept of biocontrol to farmers. Photo by IITA.
Scientist explaining the concept of biocontrol to farmers. Photo by IITA.

Social science research at IITA recognizes the role of sociocultural influences on differential gender rights, roles, and privileges, which provides insights into the most appropriate pro-poor interventions, beneficial to both men and women. With the recognition that agricultural research and development interventions affect men and women differently, social science research at IITA will contribute to an increased understanding of gender imbalances in access to assets and the determinants of technology, and market participation. The purpose of this line of research will be to ensure that technology development and delivery systems and commercialization strategies are inclusive of gender issues with a view to achieving gender-equitable impacts of agricultural research with improved benefits to women and the marginalized groups in rural areas.

Apart from the major efforts aimed at mainstreaming and integrating gender issues into much of the social science research agenda, targeted gender analysis will be conducted on the roles, livelihood strategies, constraints, and preferences of men and women, the youth, and marginalized groups in different sociocultural systems. This will help to identify gender-differentiated technology needs, choices, and constraints, and test mechanisms that enhance technology targeting, delivery, and equitable access for greater impact on both men and women.

The social science research agenda contributes to IITA’s 10-year strategy for 2011–2020 that has the goal of moving 20–25 million people out of poverty. The formulation of the social science research agenda also takes into consideration the new CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs), particularly those programs in which IITA is involved. It also incorporates findings from the 2009 Stripe Review of Social Sciences in the CGIAR.

Note: The Social Science Working Group was composed of V.M. Manyong (v.manyong@cgiar.org), A.D. Alene, T. Abdoulaye, J. Rusike, E. Ouma, M. Yade, O. Coulibaly, J. Gockowski, A. Tegbaru, and H. Kirscht.

Akin Adesina: Making agriculture work for farmers

Minister Akin Adesina. Photo by IITA.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Akin Adesina. Photo by IITA.

Sir, you have a tall order for yourself and for the Ministry in particular. Could you tell us your program priorities?
The tall order is not one that I actually set. The tall order was set by the people of Nigeria in terms of expectations from the political class. When President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was endorsed by the people in a huge way, he told Nigerians, “I will never, never let Nigerians down” That is the order.

So my task as Minister of Agriculture is derived from the President’s commitment to Nigerians. I have to make sure that Nigeria’s agriculture delivers in such a way that we can feed Nigerians; that we put a lot of the youth to work; that we can reduce our import dependency; that we can get a new generation of young farmers back into agriculture; that we can diversify the economy from relying just on petroleum; that we can get our crops—cocoa, oil palm, and cotton—competitive and back into the market. My task is to make sure that Nigeria can feed itself with pride and to make sure that Nigeria does not become a dumping ground for food; we should be a net exporter of food.

In practical terms, how will you achieve this?
If you want to rebuild a house, you first figure out what’s wrong with the house before you start putting your structures in place. Nigeria used to be the largest player in palm oil. We were producing 60% of the global production; today, zero. We used to account for 30% of cotton production, just like groundnut; today, we are almost near zero… And so my task is, first and foremost, to bring a new sense of order to the disorder in the agricultural sector.

Today, we must rapidly raise productivity; make improved seeds, hybrids, and fertilizers available to farmers; make sure they have access to finance; and improve their access, so they can actually begin to produce a lot of food for the domestic markets.

The second thing that we have done is to launch the Cassava Green Revolution. As you know, Nigeria produces 45 million t of cassava; we are the largest producer in the world, but we account for 0% in terms of global value addition. For our Cassava Green Revolution, we want our farmers to make money, and they’ll be getting better markets when their cassava is actually processed, for example, as starch, ethanol, glucose, chips for livestock feed and, of course, gari.

We have also launched a Green Revolution for sorghum and a Green Revolution for sweetpotato, because sweetpotato, especially the orange-fleshed kind, allows us to add beta-carotene for kids. In terms of cash crops, we are looking at cocoa and oil palm.

What has been the response of the private sector? How do you intend to bring them into your strategy?
The private sector is the engine of growth. Every time you unlock the power of the private sector, you will create a lot of jobs and have significant amounts of growth. Agriculture is a business, so we need the private sector in the seed set-up. For example, in this country we have about 11 seed companies that are functional. Those seed companies need access to financing to be able to expand their production from the current level of about 5000 t to a million t. That means that they must have access to land and financing—for processing and seed-processing equipment—long-term investment, not just working capital. And so, the Ministry is putting together a venture capital fund that will enable our seed companies to get access to the financing that they need.

What role could partners such as IITA and NGOs play in your strategy?
First and foremost, I cut my teeth in research, actually working for the CGIAR. I also worked in IITA in the 1990s. I am enormously proud of IITA, of what it IITA does, and its impact on Nigeria and all of Africa. Why are the international agricultural research centers (IARCs) such an important system? There’s a history to that. When the Green Revolution started in Asia, it happened because the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines worked on new varieties of wheat and rice that rapidly increased farmers’ yields by three or four times.

Launching a Green Revolution in cassava in Nigeria. Photo by IITA.
Launching a Green Revolution in cassava in Nigeria. Photo by IITA.

That particular situation lifted a billion people out of poverty in Asia. The basis of that was the IARCs. In Africa, the prime center of the system is IITA. IITA has done well. There was a time when we had a problem with the cassava mealybug that was destroying cassava all over Africa. IITA helped to develop a biocontrol program that dealt with it and with a billion dollars worth of benefits. In fact, it is probably the best research ever in the world in terms of biocontrol for any given thing when it comes to rate of return.

IITA was behind the Maize Revolution in the northern Guinea savanna of Nigeria in the 1980s. IITA released new varieties of maize that turned the entire northern Guinea savanna from relying on sorghum to producing maize as a cash crop.

Let’s look at IITA and soybean. Nigeria never used to grow soybean; we were importing it. The Nigerian Government supported IITA then; some people said we shouldn’t. In fact, some foreign Governments said, “If you support IITA, we would not fund IITA any longer.” The Nigerians said, “No, we will support IITA” and they did. IITA then released the TGx varieties in the northern Guinea savanna. Today, Nigeria is the largest producer of soybean in Africa. IITA also continues to work on developing better, high-yielding varieties of maize and soybean. In addition, IITA is working on aflasafeTM which is dealing with the huge problem of aflatoxin contamination in the north.

This shows that one cannot get far without research. It’s not just IITA; we have other IARCs here, such as AfricaRice, CIMMYT, International Center for Research in the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), all working in Nigeria and all in their own way having significant impact. I believe that for us to achieve the Green Revolution, IITA and other organizations have to put more effort in pushing out appropriate technologies to farmers. There has to be better coordination and synergy between the IARCs and our national institutes. When India achieved its Green Revolution, most of the people who did the work were from the Indian Agricultural Research Council. For Nigeria, we want our national agricultural research centers strengthened so as to be level partners with IITA.

At the end of the day, we have to make sure that there is R4D, research for development, not research for research. IITA and other centers are pioneering this area, making sure that agricultural research is relevant to the needs of the end user.

If you look at investment in agricultural research, it has the highest rate of return of anything—higher than that from health and education. If you can just increase the productivity of agriculture in Nigeria by 10%, you can lift 70 million people out of poverty. Obviously, that requires investment in research. My own desire is that the donors that are supporting IITA continue to support IITA and other IARCs still more because we need them for our Green Revolution.

But in addition, our Government also needs to look at the amount of money we are spending on agriculture compared to what was agreed at the NEPAD—countries were to put 10% of their budget into agriculture. If we are at 3% and less, we need to change that and be able to come back to 10%. Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Kenya, and Ethiopia are all at 10% and more, and we have more mouths to feed than they have. So, we can’t just simply say we are relying on external institutions; we must have sufficient resources to drive the agriculture change process. Also, domestically, research pays off enormously.

As a former member of staff in IITA, what are the areas you think need to be strengthened?
IITA must ensure that its available technologies such as cassava varieties that give 40—50 t/ha reach farmers. Secondly, IITA needs to get back into what it used to do before: training national scientists, providing them with opportunities to come in and spend sabbaticals at IITA. At the end of the day, it is the national institutions that will have to deliver the change, but you need strong national partners to work with.

The other thing that I think is crucial is for IITA is to work more on markets. It needs to make sure that the value-chains for commodities such as maize or cassava really work. I really admire what DG Hartmann has done in that area. He’s putting the focus on markets. This is very important and I hope IITA will continue to do more of that.

Agriculture is not just about food, says Minister Adesina. Photo by IITA.
Agriculture is not just about food, says Minister Adesina. Photo by IITA.

Finally IITA needs to look at policy. When the Green Revolution happened in Asia, there were policies that drove the changes. The CG centers did not just leave the varieties there; they pushed and drove the necessary changes. So, there needs to be strong policy advocacy from IITA and other centers to help farmers have access to seeds, fertilizers, markets, and infrastructure. In the case of technology, don’t just produce technology and assume that, somehow, the technology will find its way to the farmer’s field. Stick with it, work with the Ministry of Agriculture; work with Government to make sure that the technology actually is in the farmer’s field and that it works.

Who is your role model?
I have two role models. My first role model is my father, who was a farmer. In those days, he used to work on people’s farms as a laborer with my grandfather. After days of hard work and at the age of 14, my father couldn’t read and write. He said agriculture wasn’t paying for him to go to school. Fortunately a Good Samaritan came around and saw him on the farm and took him to Lagos. That’s how my father was educated and eventually became a Government Auditor. That’s the only reason why you are interviewing me now; it’s because somebody sent my father to school.

My father told me that there are so many people who had missed opportunities in life just because agriculture was not working for them. So he taught me very early in life that if I ever found myself in a position to make a difference, especially for farmers, I should make sure agriculture work would for them. He said agriculture was not just about food; it’s about creating wealth for farmers, providing an income to send their kids to school and have a better life. And that has always been the guiding light in my profession: making sure that agriculture works for millions of poor farmers.

My second role model is Dr Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution in Asia, who inspired me so much. I believe in all that I do. I am driven by the fact that one day, I’ll give an account to God for the responsibilities and opportunities given me to change the lives of people. So it’s not just academic work; it’s a life mission for me, to make sure that agriculture works to transform the lives of our people. So in between my father teaching me the right values and Dr Borlaug showing me that it can be done, I have a very tall order to fill indeed.