The face of FARA

“In a continent that serves more than a billion meals three times a day, there is no way that agriculture cannot be profitable. On the flipside, that shows us the opportunities that we have failed to take advantage of.”
Dr Yemi Akinbamijo is the Executive Director of FARA (the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa) and a speaker at the 2017 African Agri Investment Indaba.

He describes himself as an “agricultural research for development” enthusiast, and an expert in research for development in approaches in agriculture in the continent.” He is also clearly skeptical of those who say African agriculture is not profitable.

“For all of my life I have seen the same brands of canned fish, the same brands of milk (powdered or evaporated), the same brands of tomatoes, and the same brands of cocoa products. These brands have been in the African markets for as long as I have been alive. So if it’s not profitable, why are they still in
the market?”

The trick is to ensure that Africans start feeding Africans, and that Africans start seeing some of these profits.

“We cannot continue in the futile cycle of feeding ourselves by importing food. We are borrowing and importing ourselves to death. Every time you bite a piece of meat that was not raised on the African soil, you have deprived an African farmer the benefits that are due that farmer. We need to shift this mindset
that “made in Africa” produce is inferior to imported produce.”

He believes, “First and foremost, change must happen in African agriculture and we have to change in an environmentally sustainable way; we have to change in a totally inclusive way, in a gender-sensitive way – leaving nobody behind.”

He quotes Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze – the erstwhile president of The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – who says, “Africa’s agriculture is too important to be outsourced, and we cannot go very far without science.”

And science is Dr Akinbamijo’s business. A Nigerian national, he has spent the 30+ years of his career in Africa and Europe working in the International Agriculture, food security and Rural Development domain. Prior to his appointment as Executive Director of FARA, he was the Head of Division of the Agriculture
and Food Security Division at the African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Before then, he served as the Director of the AU Inter-African Phytosanitary Council based in Yaoundé Cameroon.Before then, he served as the Director of the AU Inter-African Phytosanitary Council based in Yaoundé Cameroon. Dr Akinbamijo has published several scientific papers and articles and had served in several international panels including Chair of the West African Livestock Innovation Centre (WALIC –former International Trypanotolerance Center; Continental Working Group on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Issues; Africa-EU Joint Expert Group; AfricaBrazil on Agriculture and Food Security; Africa-Arab Joint Action on Food Security and Agriculture; Steering Committee on African Growth and Development and a host of others. He holds a PhD in Agriculture and Environmental Sciences with specialisation on Tropical Animal production from Wageningen University Research Centre, The Netherlands.

“The science of agriculture is non-negotiable if we are to advance agriculture in Africa. We have a huge science deficit in the way we practice agriculture in Africa. Common sense says if you do what you always did you will get the results you always got.

“I am convinced that in order to change or to take African agriculture to the next level, you need science. You don’t need rocket science, but you need a good quantum of science and that is the raison d’etre of FARA – ensuring that quantum of science is integrated in a stepwise manner into the production systems.

“FARA is the oxygen of our agricultural production system. The oxygen is vital to life, even as research is vital to agriculture. FARA therefore coordinates as the apex institution for coordinating agricultural research on the continent.”