The Federal Government has fasttrack its effort to upgrade the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) to a Center of Excellence for seed industry in West Africa.
The Director General of the council, Dr. Philip Ojo, who disclosed this at the weekend in Abuja, during the visit of the Team handling the BASIC project from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said the council intends to collaborate with development partners in the seed industry to actualise the goal. Disclosing that Nigeria provide 70 per cent of seeds used in the region, Ojo disclosed that N400million would be needed to upgrade the council to a center of excellence, which would be a hub for quality control capacity building, information dissemination amongst others.
He said the “Center of Excellence is going to be the hub of many activities to ensure that good quality seeds actually permeates and becomes available to stakeholders, including farmers, members of the seed industry (members of the seed Association of Nigeria), seed companies and others involved in the process of seed usage.”
The DG added: “the center would also have many things on board including a sound seed testing laboratory, guest houses, trainings and training hall with all relevant equipment, as well as, fields for research and their trainings from various partners, including CORAF, Basics, AGRA, as well as, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
According to him, the development is in collaboration with major stakeholders such as IITA, Seed Association of Nigeria, farmers and others. He said the renewed centre would focus on Cassava production. “The cassava pasta is a very useful instrument for us, we will look at the whole value chain, and information will be provided and digital facilitation. We even want to go beyond cassava. We want to ensure that there is certification in all the crops, but we are starting from cassava.”
Also speaking, Head, Germplasm Health Unit, IITA, Dr. Lava Kumar, stressed the need for improve seed production to ensure food security, by obtainng sufficient seeds for farmers, adding that there are ongoing talks with the Agric ministry to ensure the production of quality seeds by the seed entrepreneur.
He assured that; “now all is being done to ensure change in the way the seed is being produced and also key into development that will stimulate investment by seed entrepreneurs. So one of the things we are doing is to encourage and attract private industries to come into seed production.”
Kumar said in its role, the IITA would define the scope of the lab, the establishment, which will include Infrastructure -Equipment-Supplies and reagents-Maintenance -Human skills -Water and power, as well as, sustainability to include regular use and funding support
Also speaking, the Project Coordinator, Hermant Nitturkar, said with cassava being one of the most important crops in Nigeria with a yield gap of almost $2b; “The NASC is going to play a very important role of transforming cassava in Nigeria and we are working very closely together to ensure high-quality seeds, build infrastructure and ensure the development of the whole seed system in Nigeria.”