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By Samson Yaki and Pauline Abutu

Professor Muhammad Faguji Ishiyaku, the current Executive Director of Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and one-time Dean of Students’ Affairs of the University, in his maiden interview with Green Monitor, spoke on the mandate, successes and challenges of the Institute from inception to date. He also spoke on other wide range of issues of national interest. Below, is the complete text of the interview:


The Institute for Agricultural Research, Samaru, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, popularly known as IAR was established in 1922 as the research arm of the regional ministry of Agriculture in those days. The mandate of the institute at that time was to research into problems of agriculture and to provide solution and to enhance productivity in agriculture in Northern Nigeria, and the mandate included agricultural mechanization on how to reduce difficulties of operations such as drying, planting, application of fertilizers, herbicides etc. It also included the development of improved crop varieties which are being planted by farmers in northern Nigeria. At that time, it included all the vegetables crops e.g. onions, peppers, cabbages, etc, it also included crops such as Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, sesame, cotton, ground nut, cowpea (beans), maize, sorghums, sun flower, wheat and other crops grown in northern Nigeria.

But around 1975, the military government decided to federalize some of the regional institutions, and then IAR became the property of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Along with the change in ownership, the mandate also was realigned, which reduced some of the crops the institute use to work on and also retained some. For instance, most of the vegetable crops like cabbage, sesame, etc, were transferred from IAR to other research institutes of the federal government. Now, we have mandate to research into cotton, ground nut, cowpea {beans}, maize, sorghum, sun flower, Artemisia, castor and Jatropha.

In addition to that, we have research mandate to conduct research into irrigation agriculture. The engineering of agriculture, the agronomy of agriculture, where crops can be grown, the dry season condition, the amount of water and the type of soil the crops are grown. We are also into researching into development of equipment and machineries that farmers can use to reduce drudgery in agriculture,  eg, we have developed improved threshers that can use either electricity or fuel to thresh. We have developed driers that can dry tomatoes and other farm produce.

We have developed machines that would help in weeding, machines that can assist in planting where you put your seeds and mount the planter on a tractor to plant. We have developed improved means of irrigation that will economize water and it is in use not only in northern Nigeria but throughout Nigeria.

Even though some of the mandates have been taken from us, but before then, we have been able to develop improved seedlings of heat tolerant tomatoes, improved variety of pepper that is the ‘tatase’ type and the very hot chilly type.

So far, we have developed about 13 different varieties of cotton, 26 varieties of groundnut, 20 varieties of cowpea including the very newest variety that was developed recently which has high resistance to insects, this will save Nigerian farmers at least 16 billion naira annually if up to one million hectares of this variety is grown by our farmers, through the savings from the cost of purchase of insecticides. It is called a podborer that resists very notorious insects on the field.

We have developed 46 different varieties of sorghums, from the early maturing stage to different colours of the grains from white, yellow, etc. we have also 54 different varieties of maize including quality protein maize that is rich in amino acid that is good for human health, especially in children growth. We have four varieties of sun flower as well as soya beans.

When you join the productivity of sun flower, ground nut, soya beans, we have no reason to import cooking oil in this country. This will provide the requisite oil needed for our consumption in this country.

We have also succeeded in delivering these technologies to our farmers and showcase them in different states. We are also in constant touch with the agricultural development projects which are arms of States’ Ministries of Agriculture. We work hand in hand with them to make sure farmers get to know about these technologies.


All these successes have come not without challenges. Our main challenge is the need to recruit scientists, as our demands are expanding, our population is growing and then the need for technology is growing by the day, and the speed with which you are expected to deliver technology and solve problems is also highly demanding. So, we need to strengthen our human resource base especially in areas of different specializations.

In terms of finance, the Federal government in the last five years has lived to its promise of wanting to support agriculture. At least in the research sector, I would say that federal government has invested a lot and the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, has visited IAR many times since he assumed office. And any time he comes, he tells us that we are the foot soldiers of solving the problems of agriculture. He specifically mentioned IAR as being in the fore front for providing solutions to agricultural development problems, and he assured us of his unflinching support any time we came looking for it, and we are happy to note that this year we have gotten a very significant release of budgetary funds. As we developed more and more areas of expansion into research and development, we will contact government again for additional support.

Appeal/Message to Farmers:

My appeal to farmers is for them to work with us much more closely than we used to do. We have changed our vision from that of a research institute that is being consulted like a hospital where patients go, we have made it a point of duty to go to where our patients are, who are farmers, and try to understand the problems they are facing and then, as scientists, design solutions jointly with them. One of our strategies is to ensure that we have almost a day-to-day interaction with the umbrella of farmers’ Organisations – All Farmers Associations in Nigeria, under which different commodity producing associations exist.  E.g. Maize Growers, Processors, Marketers and Association. These organizations experience on the ground problems pertaining their commodities. We have the same organization for other crops. These are going to be our partners in progress in terms of identifying the specific problems associated not only with production, but with utilization.

In terms of development of products, after producing a particular crop, the only way you can expand its demand is by diversifying its use. So, our scientists have diversified means of utilizing our agro products, for instance, our recent product is the flakes made from maize and sorghum largely which is equivalent of the corn flakes people take as cereals in breakfast. The other equivalent is ‘Kanzo’ which our students in secondary schools consume as snacks and as food. We have come forward to modernize the ‘Kanzo’ type of flakes from our improved maize and sorghum and we have them in different tastes, spices, sugary, salt, etc. for the consumer to enjoy.

We have also extracted Roselle {zobo} concentrates which can be packaged for people to take. So, we are targeting not only enhanced productivity of a product but we want to elicit demand for these products by expanding their utilization so that at the end of the day we are able to add value to them so that enterprises can spring up along our research. For example, we are interested in seeing that individuals come forward, to partner with us, by checking the prototype of these machines for the zobo and the kanzo, and then they can have their starter so that they can start their enterprise.

My advice to farmers is that you have an opportunity for problem solving here. We have nothing other than to listen to your problems and design scientific experiment and find solutions to those problems. And we will also be knocking on your back yards and say here is the technology we developed which will solve your problems. Remember that it is this Institute that provided the solutions for the notorious tomatoes pest some two or three years ago that went a long way in salvaging our tomatoes production in the country.

Advice to Government:

In this light, I want to advice government to rely on research Institutes like IAR to find the solutions to our agricultural problems. We are Nigerians and we know our agricultural landscape more than anybody that might come inside and at the same time, one of the ways we can record success is that the government should continue with the policy of closing our borders and shutting our backs against agricultural produce of other countries. Unless it becomes seriously and very necessary or else, we shall never grow. We have enough technologies to sustain this.

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