Nigeria’s agricultural think-tank, the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) says research and innovations being developed at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) hold promise, and could transform Nigeria’s agricultural narrative.

The think tank, which comprises eminent persons drawn from Nigeria’s private sector players in the agricultural value chain and led by its Vice president, Emmanuel Ijewere, paid a visit to IITA to explore areas of possible collaboration with the institute.

After a series of presentations by IITA researchers and a tour of the 1000-hectare research facility, Ijewere remarked, “The visit to IITA is an eye opener.”

“Yes, we knew that IITA was doing some things, but little did we realize the extent and depth of what they have done… how far they have gone, and how relevant they have become to Nigeria’s agriculture future,” he added.

Innovations to have come from IITA include improved seeds that could more than double farmers’ productivity, technologies that control weeds and double the yield of cassava, simple processing machines that add value to crops such as cowpea, cassava, and yam.

Other technologies such as inoculum production which raises the productivity of legumes such as soybean by about 20 percent, and aflasafe—a biological control product for managing aflatoxins—were also explored.

The semi-autotrophic hydroponics which is being used to produce thousands of clean seeds of clonal crops such as cassava and yam, and the yam aeroponics—a system of growing clean seed yam in the air—were also well received by the group.

Located in Ibadan—about 150 kilometres from the commercial city of Lagos, Nigeria, IITA was established 50 years ago with the aim of providing solutions to constraints that plague Africa’s agriculture and development.

In the last 7 years, IITA under the leadership of Dr Nteranya Sanginga (Director General), has refreshed its strategy with emphasis not just on research but also partnership building, delivery, commercialization of technologies and dissemination of innovations, and youth in agribusiness.

Mr Ijewere said the NABG would work with IITA to see how the research outputs of the Institute in the last 50 years could be ‘translated to money in the bank for resource-poor farmers.’

The President of NABG, Sani Dangote, who is also the Vice President of the Dangote Group said, “What we saw here (in IITA) is amazing.”

Dangote, who was represented by Baba Girma said, “I never thought we have this in Nigeria. Before, we thought IITA was only about research but what we saw today shows opportunities that can bring synergy between what they (IITA) are doing and the private sector.”