A Holistic Approach to Policy Change in Nigeria’s Agri-Food Value Chain

To improve agricultural policy and enhance food security in Nigeria, researchers at Michigan State University have helped launch a new Innovation Lab for Policy Leadership in Agriculture and Food Security (PiLAF) at the University of Ibadan.

The University of Ibadan (UI) is Nigeria’s first and still leading university, with a strong faculty of agriculture and school of economics. Though petroleum dominates the country’s economy, agriculture – and especially the food system writ more broadly including the rapidly growing value added needed to feed rising urban populations – remains central to inclusive growth and poverty reduction.  Yet UI has never had a unit focused on issues of the country’s food economy and the policies and investments that make it work – or that undermine it and prevent it from reaching its potential.  With the help of the Michigan State University (MSU) led Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research, Capacity, and Influence (PRCI), UI has now changed that.  Working with the University’s Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development (DAERD) and the Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law (CPEEL) and drawing on the financial and organizational assistance of PRCI, Dr. Ogunbayo Iredele, a Professor of Extenstion and Agriculture at UI, and his colleagues have established the Innovation Lab for Policy Leadership in Agriculture and Food Security (PiLAF) to focus on the food system challenges that the country faces. 

According to Dr. Ogunbayo, Nigeria faces many challenges across it’s agri-food value chain, including a shortage of youth farm labor, a lack of food processing and storage facilities, poor transport and marketing infrastructure, and the devastating impacts of climate change. To tackle these compounding challenges Dr. Ogunbayo and his colleagues identified the need for a holistic approach to evaluating, reforming, and implementing agricultural policies that could foster a resilient food system.  Dr. Ogunbayo says, “The goal of PiLAF is to be a major player and influencer of agricultural policies in Nigeria.  The problems we are facing are enormous and the country is undergoing a tough time and all sectors are effected.” 

PiLAF’s establishment was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the center was officially launched in late 2020.  To achieve their mission of policy influence, PiLAF is using a bottom-up approach that directly engages with the needs of stakeholders.  Research topics are defined in consultation with stakeholders, and results are fed back to them and discussed for their policy implications.  Ogunbayo’s colleague at UI, Dr. Adegbenga Adekoya, a Professor of Extension and Agriculture at UI says, “We want the stakeholders across the entire agricultural value chain to be involved in shaping the policies that touch them. We interact with producers, processors, creditors, consumers and policymakers.  It is very important that we represent our stakeholders interests to policy makers and that our stakeholders understand our policy recommendations.”  In particular, Ogunbayo and Adekoya see a need to improve outcomes for smallholder farmers and small and medium enterprises in the country’s food value chains, noting that they often lack access to value added opportunities and to proper food storage, leading to unnecessary food waste.

PiLAF chose Nigeria’s rapidly growing poultry value as its first focus to apply its interactive approach to research and policy definition.  The center began almost immediately with a major stakeholder engagement initiative with the value chain, then began collecting data from poultry and maize farmers.  Adekoya notes that “the fate of the poultry industry is closely linked with the fate of maize industry” since the grain provides the base for the feed industry on which the poultry sector depends.  In the coming year PiLAF hopes to expand its research and outreach to include rice, cocoa, and cassava producers; these three crops are vital to Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

Oguynbayo and Adekoya credit PRCI for making PiLAF possible.  Adekoya says, “From the inception, PRCI has trained us in its approach to systematically building institutional capacity, which has enabled us to plan, assign duties and responsibilities, and execute our mission. Working with PRCI has been a wonderful experience: the mentorship, the trainings, the capacity development.”  Ogunybayo adds that PiLAF is already applying for funding opportunities beyond PRCI.

Reflecting on the development of PiLAF, PRCI Director and Professor in the MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, David Tschirley says, “From the very beginning, the PiLAF team have taken ownership of the process.  They have created a new innovation lab that is already engaging with stakeholders, generating evidence-based research, and laying the groundwork for policy formation and influence.  PiLAF’s early success illustrates PRCI’s commitment to creating sustainable policy research centers throughout Africa.”

 

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