September 4, 2018

Researchers seek overhaul of ARCN

Environmental protection, soil improvement critical to agric devt

Some research fellows in the agriculture sector have called for a total overhaul of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) to meet emerging challenges.

The recommendation was contained in a paper prepared for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) by the researchers.

The authors of the paper include Suresh Babu, a Senior Research Fellow and Head of Capacity Strengthening at IFPRI as well as independent consultants working with ARCN.

The authors made their position known on Tuesday in Abuja during their meeting.

Babu said the ARCN was not effective due to ineffective governance, lack of funding, low human capacity and poor communication and distribution of research findings.

According to him, ARCN over the last 10 ten years had undergone several re-organisations leading to instability in its structure and functions.

“The instability has made it impossible for researchers to have access to adequate operational grants, thus leading to the two institutions losing many qualified staff.

“Inadequate funding has brought about an inability to hire and retain top-level researchers.

“The research facilities are obsolete and this is a constraint to the researchers,’’ he said.

The researchers specified that the Act establishing ARCN should be reviewed, adding that the governance and organisational structure should be devoid of political interference.

They recommended that human resources policies and capacity building should be strengthened while a Directorate of Agricultural Education should be established to meet the specific needs of the federal colleges of agriculture.

The authors said political interference in ARCN had been identified as a major impediment and advised that the council should give special attention to merit.

Other problems, they said, included poor working relationship among researchers, poor legal framework, technological challenges, poor communication and low-level of involvement of trade unions in the reform process.

The researchers, who noted that many developing nations had reformed their agriculture research councils, pointed out that the measure had gone a long way to improve their economy.

They said the recommendation for the restructuring of the institution was based on an evaluation of the performance of the agricultural sector and the role played by the National Agriculture Research System (NARS).

The 51-page report stated that countries such as India, Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil that had reformed their research systems were making progress in increasing agricultural productivity and investments.

The report said to achieve the objectives, ARCN must be transformed into an organisation with the capacity to plan research programmes for achieving agricultural objectives and drive implementation strategies in a holistic manner.

It noted that ARCN as presently structured and staffed was not well positioned to meet the increasing demands of Nigeria’s agriculture sector.

The report noted that for the agriculture sector to improve on its contribution to the overall goal of the economic growth, the sector must be transformed from subsistence to a commercial and profitable business enterprise.

It said for this to happen, a National Sustainable Agricultural Development Plan must be established along the agriculture value chain to promote private sector participation.

The report added that to position ARCN as a key driver in agriculture transformation, it must adopt the agricultural product value chain approach to research within the framework of integrated agriculture research for development.

“ARCN should also oversee collecting, storing, evaluating and monitoring the distribution of germplasm and supervising the importation of germplasm by collaborating with Quarantine Services.

“ARCN budgeting process must be reviewed by the National Assembly and the budget office in line with its structure as a single system with a secretariat driving the operations of the constituent institutions,’’ it said.

ARCN was established in 2006 with a mandate to coordinate, supervise and regulate agricultural research, training and extension in Nigeria.

Nigeria currently has the largest NARS in Africa comprising of 18 agricultural research institutes. (NAN)