- The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture on this weekend unveiled a strategy to boost agricultural research in Africa with plans to establish a "Global Research Park" in Nigeria.
The plan, which has been approved by the institute, aims at attracting "big international private sector research companies to the institute's headquarters in Ibadan," according to the Director General of IITA, Peter Hartmann, during IITA Open Day on Saturday in Ibadan.
"Already we have three international research centers working with us here, now we want to get the biggest private sector research companies to come here so that we make this place a Global Research Park," he explains.
The park is set to create additional jobs for Africans and more importantly it hopes to help improving crop productivity on the continent, thus improving livelihoods, boosting food security, generating wealth and helping fight poverty.
Some of the reasons which made Nigeria a destination of choice are the rich and vast agro-ecologies and its population of over 140 million people. According to Mr Hartmann, "Nigeria allows IITA to work in the dry lands, forest lands and the wet lands. It has all the agro-ecologies."
While restating IITA plans to remain in Nigeria, the IITA leader says the institute has enjoyed a good relationship with the government of Nigeria. "We have been here for almost 50 years and hope to be here in the years ahead. We have no intention of going anywhere," he says.
Established in 1967, IITA is committed to providing solutions to Africa's problems in eradicating hunger and poverty, thereby generating income and creating wealth for resource-poor farmers. Besides, the institute has over the years provided jobs to hundreds of graduates across its stations in Nigeria.
Mr Hartmann cited "the revolution of cassava and soybeans in Nigeria" as part of the achievements of the 42-year-old institute.
"Our research with Nigerian farmers has made Nigeria the number one producer of cassava in the world. Before that, Thailand was leading for over 25 years. To me, it is possible and that has been my message. When IITA introduced soybeans in Nigeria, people laughed at us but today, Nigeria is the number one producer of soybean in Africa, overtaking South Africa," he says.
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