By ‘Wale Sadeeq
Nigeria Alert Wednesday, 8th Deember 2021
The tremendous impacts which the International Institute of Tropical
Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, has made in addressing poverty and food insecurity ensuring nutritional health and wellbeing of farm families and making the environment more resilient through its cutting-edge research on agriculture, in collaboration with its many international, regional and national partners, cannot be
The institute, with its strong international profile and pro-poor reputation, is spearheading efforts at transforming African agriculture, with the help of its network of partners and donors.
Of particular interest, however, is the panache, which the Director-General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, has brought into the
54-year-old institute in its quest to deliver on its mandate and achieve food sufficiency through research within the African continent.
Indeed, the success story of IITA cannot be completed without the indelible contributions of Sanginga, an indigene of
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and first African Director-General of the institute.
Sanginga, who assumed office as Director-General in 2011, has displayed exceptional commitment to initiatives which have placed African continent on the global stage, especially in the agricultural arena.
He has been leading a team of world-class scientists spread all over sub-Saharan Africa in helping small African farmers and farming communities to attain a better life, using novel scientific approaches
and innovative developmental interventions that are benefitting small-holder farmers, with monumental impacts across the continent.
No wonder, the institute has been growing in leap and bound, particularly
in its sustained efforts groundbreaking research and development, which
have continued to positively affect the lives of millions of people in the African continent in terms of food security improvement, ensuring
food and feed safety through entrepreneurship, enhancing seed Systems,
mentoring of youths and young scientists and improving on capacity development programmes.
For instance, the institute, under Sanginga’s leadership, has championed the creation of business incubation platform (BIP) for a food-sufficient Africa. Through the platform, it has partnered with the private sector in providing agribusiness opportunities in seed
systems and products that increase yields and food quality. It is a platform, linking research, development, commercialisation and capacity development, leading to establishment of full-scale production facilities for adoption by the private sector.
IITA has also blazed the trail in setting the youth agripreneurs
programme, which the director-general described as one of his most important legacies.
“We started the programme to address the high rate of unemployment
among African youths, with agriculture sitting as a goldmine, waiting
for an explorer,” he said.
According to him, more than 60 per cent of Africa’s estimated 1.2 billion people are under the age of 25 and yet, with little job creation.
Whereas, agriculture remains an essential driver of economic development and an area of great opportunities for young people in the continent, adding that the IYA initiative had now been adopted by many
organisations, especially the African Development Bank (AfDB) which had
scaled it to 24 countries.
To him, IYA rekindles the hope of a new generation of African agricultural entrepreneurs that will feed the continent and create wealth and employment.
Sanginga, who holds a Doctoral Degree in Agronomy/Soil Microbiology, has also fashioned out what he called Start Them Early Programme (STEP) with a view to providing in-depth and holistic agribusiness education to secondary school students.
The starting point of STEP was the rehabilitation and modernisation of a hitherto dilapidated Oyo
State Government-owned Secondary School at Fasola Town, Oyo, which has the capacity to hold more than 300 students.
Indeed, Gov. Seyi
Makinde of Oyo State, who inaugurated the school on July 23, 2020, was said to have
been fascinated by the IITA magic and has since replicated the STEP initiative in some secondary schools across the state.
Aside upgrading the infrastructure in IITA stations in Abuja, Kano,
Onne, Rivers; Umudike, Abia; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kampala, Uganda; Nampula, Mozambique; Kalambo, DR Congo and Lusaka, Zambia, the
appointment of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as IITA Ambassador
by Sanginga, has assisted the institute immensely in networking with some international partners, such as African Development Bank (AfDB) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through which no fewer than 25 projects have been funded.
Perhaps, the greatest motivating factor for all these achievements and
many others is Sanginga’s policy of putting people first.
To him, people are the wings on which an organisation flies, stating that setting goals and issuing instructions are not enough; if people are not motivated, the progress of such an organisation will be delayed.
Thus, he decided to adopt the people-approach where staff members are built up and motivated into attaining their full potentials in a convivial atmosphere.
This is indeed attested to by some of the staff members, ranging from
those in the senior management cadre, scientists, drivers, gatemen, laboratory attendants to others, with a unanimous verdict that IITA has been lucky to have Sanginga as its helmsman.
The Deputy Director-General in charge of Partnership for Delivery, Dr Kenton Dashiell, for instance, described his boss as a visionary leader and motivator.
Dashiell, an American national, who said that he had known Sanginga for the past 38 years, said that he is passionate
about the welfare and wellbeing of those working under him, stressing, “he loves them, respects them and has been helping them to attain their potentials since he came on board”.
Also, the Communication Person for Care Projects (sponsored by IFAD),
Timilehin Osunde, said that IITA was in a bad state before the director-general came on board, expressing happiness that he had been able to make a lot of changes through his administrative ingenuity and prioritisation of staff welfare.
While the President, Management Staff Association, Femi Akeredolu described Sanginga as “a change agent prepared by God for a time like this and for the transformation of the entire system”, the President of Senior Staff Association, Bukky Adeyemo, opines that his style of administration is “transparent and open, thus building trust and
hope,” adding that the director-general has “the mind for improving the lives of humanity”.
Likewise, one of the agripreneurs, Gbemisola Adewuyi, in her
testimony, says: “Before now, there was no provision in IITA for youth to be gainfully employed, but Dr Sanginga introduced the youth agripreneurs scheme through which he constantly encourages us and at
no time has he let us down or looked down on us.”
It was the same comments from Oluwapelumi Odubanjo and Ibrahim Omokanye, both Laboratory Attendants, and Adebayo Olusegun, a Media
Production Assistant, who all said that the IITA helmsman has impacted positively on their lives.
Perhaps, it should be stated that it is in recognition of this
monumental feat that Sanginga has had his two-term, which should have ended on Oct. 30, but extended by another one year, which is unprecedented in the annals of the institute.
Besides, the remarkable outing has motivated a prominent traditional ruler in Yorubaland, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, into singling him out for conferment of the chieftaincy title of Aare Afurugbin Ola of the Source (Lead Sower of
Wealth and Prosperity of the House Oduduwa), which will take place at Ile Oodua, Ooni’s palace, Ile-Ife, on Dec. 11.
While expressing appreciation to the royal father for the honour, Sanginga said that this would further fire his passion for the development of agriculture and agribusiness in the African continent.
However, his parting words, he says, are passion, vision and hardwork.
Sadeeq, PhD, is Deputy Editor-in-Chief with the News Agency of Nigeria