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A call to boost Nigeria’s groundnut production to export level

In July 2012, Philip Ikeazor will complete his second and final three-year term on the Governing Board of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

A professional banker and chartered accountant with over twenty-five years of experience in the financial sector, Ikeazor is currently Executive Director Corporate, Investment Banking, and Treasury at Union Bank of Nigeria and a director of Union Bank UK.  Union Bank has remained Nigeria’s leading bank in supporting agriculture .

“The last six years with ICRISAT has nurtured my belief that agriculture is one of the most potent ways to alleviate poverty and create significant income streams for the poor people of the semi-arid tropics,” said Ikeazor. I have witnessed the giant strides and impact made by ICRISAT’s research work on the smallholder farmers in India and East Africa and some parts of West Africa. I would like such collaborations to be adopted in Nigeria,” he added.

Ikeazor is particularly keen on transferring the watershed irrigation technique piloted in India and the recent Groundnut Revolution in Malawi, which has seen a thriving fair trade export of improved groundnut to the UK. Nigeria was once the world’s leading groundnut exporters in the 1960s with the crop accounting for about 70% of the country’s total export earnings. Since then the success story of the groundnut pyramids of Kano has sadly ended. Nigeria now produces barely enough groundnuts for local consumption and desperately needs to apply research that could eliminate aflatoxins from harvests and produce high yield export grade groundnuts.

To do this, Ikeazor  is urging collaboration between groundnut farmers and ICRISAT, supported by the National Agricultural Research System and the Ministry. It is very timely that ICRISAT has recently reopened its research station inKano, so Nigeria needs to support ICRISAT beyond the existing bilateral agreement, in order to reinstate the country’s former groundnut glory.

“By working with farmers to grow improved varieties of groundnuts which are more resistant to disease and meet export market demands, as well as better aflatoxin management to prevent contamination, we can significantly boost groundnut production and sales,” insists Ikeazor. “This will create employment and yield significant income for smallholder farmers especially in the Northern and the South Western part of the country,” he added.

Ikeazor is positive that Nigeria’s groundnut industry can be revived. He is inspired by the way farmers partnered with ICRISAT in Malawi resulting in smallholder cooperatives replacing a declining tobacco crop market with the cultivation of the right variety of aflatoxin-free export grade groundnuts. With the right support, things can change in Nigeria too. Ikeazor adds that the dynamic Agriculture Minister, who is incidentally an alumnus of ICRISAT, should include groundnuts among the first phase major crops under the Ministry’s on-going transformation program. In addition the usual strong support of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance in encouraging banks to support the agricultural sector will be needed.

Ikeazor will be handing over his Governing Board position to another Nigerian, Oluwande Muoyo, a chartered accountant and professional banker. Oluwande recently moved to the public sector, having spent over 22 years of hercareer at Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Nigeria (a subsidiary of the Standard Bank of South Africa Group). She is currently the Honourable Commissioner for Budget and Planning in Ogun State, Nigeria, a state where agriculture has been identified as one of the main drivers of industrialization of its economy. With her position as a non-executive Board member of ICRISAT, Oluwande intends to align herself to the vision, mission and strategic plans of ICRISAT and contribute her quota to the reduction of hunger and poverty in the lives of farmers in the Tropical Drylands.

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