How are the public owned research institutes performing in Sudan? What are the lessons to Nigeria from the Sudan National Agricultural Summit? These were the two questions used to close the first part of this article last week. The most notable umbrella assigned with responsibilities to conduct agricultural research in Sudan is Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC). Thus, ARC is mandated to conduct applied agricultural research on food and industrial crops, forestry, livestock and food technology, and with ecological and regional responsibilities to develop sustainable production systems in the Sudan. The objectives of ARC include generation, development and adaptation of agricultural technologies targeting the needs of the over all agricultural development and its beneficiaries on sustainable manner. Furthermore, the objectives include capacity building of the agricultural research system for high efficiency and effectiveness based on developmental needs. Again, ARC plays an active role in dissemination of agricultural research results. ARC functions through a network of 27 research stations, 14 research centres and two research units located in different places across the geographical area of Sudan. The research activities are conducted through 24 research programs under the purview of ARC. ARC has more than 3000 personnel comprising administrative staff, technicians, researchers and labourers. The research centres are akin to the National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) in Nigeria. Similarly, ARC has a wide network and linkages with many bilateral and multilateral development agencies, regional and international research institutions such as IITA, IRRI, ILRI, FAO, EU, and many others.
The research programs are commodity based or discipline related, covering cash and food crops emergent technologies such as biotechnology, genetic resources and water harvesting. To take advantage of the international donor agencies for agricultural development, Sudan joined CGIAR fund in 2014 and contributed one million US Dollars to the CGIAR multi-donor trust fund. As a contributor/donor to the fund, Sudan benefits enormously from the world largest agricultural research partnership in the fields of development and dissemination of improved crop varieties, sustainable agro – forestry and integrated crop – livestock system. CGIAR is an acronym of Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research. CGIAR is a global partnership that unites organisations engaged in research for a food-secured future. CGIAR’s vision is supported by four strategic objectives of rural poverty reduction, increase of food security, improvement of human health and nutrition while ensuring sustainable management of natural resources. CGIAR components include the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres, the CGIAR Fund, the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) and partners. As the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network, CGIAR brings evidence to policy makers, innovation to partners and new tools to harness the economic, environmental and nutrition power of agriculture. Nigeria, similar to Sudan and many other countries, is a bilateral contributor to CGIAR projects.
Agriculture in Sudan is too important to be left under one ministry. Thus, there are two agricultural related ministries; Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of Animal Resources. Each of these ministries has one minister and two ministers of state, making a total of six ministers driving/manning agricultural sector of Sudan. Surprisingly and interestingly, the two ministries intensively synergise to achieve agricultural development. The development of the agriculture is a very important factor for the success of the Sudan’s aims to reduce poverty, increase the economic growth and achieve a sustainable development in the country. Therefore, the Agriculture Ministries are responsible for implementing policies that allow a sustainable development, ensure food and fight against poverty.
Another interesting development is strategic way the ministry works with universities and private sector on special areas such as livestock genetic improvement. A good example is the symbiotic relationship between ministry of animal resources and SFARI Institute for animal reproduction technologies. SFARI is a private – partnership relying on strong technical support from French companies. SFARI policies and programmes are supervised by board of directors mainly from the ministry of animal resources and university of Bahri. The institute is specialised in capacity building of livestock farmers, labourers, animal scientists and veterinary scientists in all areas of livestock production and genetic improvement. Consequently, the target audience of SFARI includes people with basic education from secondary school leavers to university graduates and practicing scientists in genetic engineering. Equipped with modern facilities, SFARI training covers diverse areas on livestock genetic enhancement, biosecurity, embryo sexing, transfer, splitting and invitro fertilization, artificial insemination and improved pregnancy diagnosis and management. The Institute collaborates with university and research institutes for livestock reproductive problems and solutions’ identification in Sudan and other African countries. Efforts are also targeted at refining and indigenising reproductive technologies for genetic improvement.
The concerted efforts of Sudan to develop agriculture in the country, in spite of her enormous challenges, have produced significant results. This is because the secession of Southern Sudan has deprived Sudan of 25 per cent of its total area, 24 per cent of population, over 80 per cent of its oil income. So far, a study by IFAD shows that the contribution of agriculture to total manufacturing output in Sudan is 60 per cent while in the form of raw materials, it is 80 per cent of non-petroleum exports which are agricultural products. As at 2017, the Sudanese agriculture is fast growing at exponential rate, more than 5 million live animals and 15 millions tons of meat were airlifted for exportation into the Middle East. Sudan’s animal wealth is Africa’s second largest. The national herd is estimated around 140 million heads of cattle (https://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article58991). When one compares the population of 19 million heads of cattle in Nigeria with that of 140 million in Sudan, then one can appreciate the level of progress made in Sudan. This means there are seven cows to every two persons in Sudan compared to one cow to 10 people in Nigeria.
The first lesson for Nigeria on the agricultural trend in Sudan is the deliberate, active and strategic involvement of the private sector. The cases of Zedna, CTC and SFARI Institute are successful examples of public – private driven agricultural research and extension model. This model brings out the best from the research angle as scientists have ample opportunity for capacity development and access to new research results and direction. The government (ministries) acquires more time for policy formulation; regulation and standardisation while the farmers acquire improved technologies and enhanced productivity. Yes, Nigeria can simply copy the Sudan Model, modify it and apply for maximum efficiency.
The second lesson is the coordination of research activities in the country. As mentioned, ARC has the mandate to conduct applied agricultural research on food and industrial crops, forestry, livestock and food technology. This is an addition to ecological and regional responsibilities to develop sustainable production systems in the Sudan. ARC periodically identifies agricultural research problems while solutions are sought from the chain of research centres under her purview. This role is similar to that of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN). The 17 National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) under the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development/ARCN in Nigeria are similar to the 14 commodity – based research centres of Sudan. The major difference is the staffing and conduct of research between the two organisations. While the personnel of the ARC, totaling 3,552 as at early 2016 are directly employees of ARC, the personnel of NARIs are directly employees of NARIs. Be as it is, ARCN has a full legal power to coordinate and regulate agricultural research activities in the country. However, this power of coordination and regulation is yet to bear fruits, as there is lack of synergy between the NARIs and other key stakeholders.
The third lesson from Sudan Agricultural strategy is the size of agricultural sector with more potential in Nigeria than Sudan. In Nigeria, over the years, agriculture has been relegated far behind in the nation’s developmental efforts for obvious reasons. Now that the nation has no option but develop agriculture and diversify the economy due to unreliability of the oil sector, can we learn from the Sudanese strategy? What can we do to our livestock subsector? Surely, we have been paying more attention to crops subsector than livestock. Should we have a separate Minister for Animal resources? To be food secured, we must double our efforts in coordination, research and extension in order to achieve the desired goals in Agriculture. The sector has the potential to gainfully employ 70 per cent of Nigerians along the value chain and generate incomes for the nation ten times higher than that of oil sector or any other sector. The time to start is now as the future starts today.