By Ismail AbdulAzeez Mantu

Exective Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Arc Sonny Echono has said the Fund stands ready and willing to collaborate with Federal University of Vicosa, UFV, other relevant agencies to consolidate the Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa, ARIFA Partnership Platform, APP.

Echono gave the assurance in the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Fara, TETFund, and UFV first ARIFA Symposium held in Vicosa,Brazil between 25th and 30th April, 2022.

The symposium’s theme is “Pedagogic Retooling Strategy for Africa’s Agricultural Research and Innovation System: Lessons from Brazil” and aims to strengthen alignment, partnership, and coordination, among current ARIFA partners: FARA, UFV, TETFund.

Attending his first international meeting as the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Echono expressed his privilege and emotional honour at the symposium, traced Nigeria’s partnership with Brazil in agriculture as a huge benefit that would help improve research framework and retool the research infrastructure available in Nigeria.

He said the strengthen the relationship with UFV, TETFund had sponsored people to Brazil to understudy its agricultural research and innovation and to gain knowledge on how to modernise Nigeria agriculture especially through deployment of science and technology.

Echono, however, underscored the agricultural research and innovation impact of the Federal University of Vicosa to the community, expressed optimism that the partnership offer would allow Nigeria attain some level of self-reliance in innovation and technology.

The Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA) aims to produce a new generation of fit-for-purpose workforce to re-engineer the African agro- food sector to provide the change factor for rapid agricultural transformation in the next ten years. While the Nigerian model of the fellowship is funded by TETFund to build strategic competence to change the prevailing narrative of the waning capacity of tertiary institutions in the country. Under this partnership, TETFund supports the training of Nigerian academia to undertake tailor-made MSc programs in various fields of sciences related to agriculture at UFV.

While maintaining that it was not enough to produce many Graduate Cohort Compacts without replicating the acquired knowledge locally, TETFund is focusing on those graduates who will practice commercial agriculture.

The attempt is to imbibe the culture of excellence and see how to replicate it home. We are engaging Visoca and Eight universities for transfer of knowledge. Despite all the gaps and challenges we must pull through and appreciate Visoca for assisting Africa,” he said.

Assuring that TETFund will double effort in accelerating the process of transformation in Nigerian agricultural sector, Echono assured that the use of science and technology will be deployed, Centre of Excellence, other relevant agencies in the country for even transformation.

Also, speaking, the Ambassador of Nigeria in Brazil, Professor Mohammad Ahmad Makarfi, said the Symposium and the partnership will benefit Nigeria government as it meets Presidents Mohammadu Buhari’s agenda which anchors on ensuring food security.

Markafi said the Buhari’s agenda on food security could be achieved through deployment of science and technology in agricultural research.

Deployment of science and technology on agricultural research will enhance production of rice and production of other agro- food and reduce importation of food in the country. We want our participants especially those who are studying to gain knowledge, acquire skill and come home to localise it, deploy profitably. We want to match academic performance with economic needs of our country to achieve food security and sustainability.

” Focus on deployment of science and technology to ensure systematic role in attaining research. Incubate businesses. We have over 200 million population and shortfall of food production is real and what will happen if we do not deploy science and technology to improve agriculture? Some regions in Nigeria and Africa are facing dry lands but with science and technology we can deploy irrigation,” said Ambassador Markafi.

“Your staying here there is a stiffer competition but you have to work hard to meet up. When you are in Brazil what do you catch? Be focus, embrace a new change in Brazil, take advantage,” the Executive Director of FARA, Yemi Akinbamyo, advised participants.

Meanwhile, targeted participants expected during the symposium include over forty ARIFA scholars currently studying in six Brazilian universities, leaders from participating institutions in Nigeria and Brazil, and representatives from Liberia, Ghana, and DR Congo.

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