The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Wahab Olasupo Egbewole, SAN, said the institution under his stewardship is glad to partner with a five-star rated ‘excellent’ institution by QS, De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom, with the hope that the partnership will help innovate Nigeria.
Prof. Egbewole stated recently at the flagging off the Agricultural Value Chain (AVAC), an African Agriculture Knowledge Transfer Partnership 2022 to 2023 R3, a project sponsored by Innovate UK.
The AVAC, which is an initiative of De Montfort University, in conjunction with the University of Ilorin and Microscale Embedded Limited, Abuja, is in partnership with Innovate UK, a United Kingdom innovation agency, which provides money and support to organisations to make new products and services.
The project is an online platform for enhancing agricultural value chains in Nigeria using data analytics and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The project is aimed at enabling farmers to sell to buyers directly and will provide them with location-aware value chain information to enhance their productivity.
While flagging off the project, Prof. Egbewole said the University of Ilorin is pleased to be part of the initiative, which is one of the major interventions in the value chain of agricultural projects in Africa.
The Vice Chancellor said that the value chain in agricultural products cannot be overemphasised because a lot of wastage is happening on the farm. He said, “I believe this will stop the wastage in agriculture, create value, ensure that our farmers are happier, and our society will accommodate whatever is produced and we will have the opportunity to export quality products”.
According to him, the partnership between the University of Ilorin and De Montfort University should impact UNILORIN in such a way that it will create visibility for the University by improving the ranking of the institution.
Prof. Egbewole, who is a Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law, pointed out that while the Innovate UK project is on, he expects that the AVAC programme will end up innovating Nigeria as a country and the university as an institution.
While congratulating Prof. J. O. Olaoye and Dr M. O. Sunmonu, both of the University of Ilorin and African Knowledge Base Supervisors of the project, for winning the project fund for the University of Ilorin, the Vice-Chancellor said, “The competition of this nature came with a lot of challenges. That you have put a lot into getting to this stage to register the name of our University among the most advanced universities in the world means a lot to us”.
Prof. Egbewole assured the partners that “at the University of Ilorin, we are diligent, we follow due process, and we are ever committed to whatever it is that we do because we are indeed better by far. Let me assure the team that the University of Ilorin is greatly interested and will monitor all steps for the 15 months that the project will be on. The monitoring is to ensure it does not lapse after 15 months and will scale up to the next stage of the project.
“I see the future of this project not only residing in Engineering and Agriculture, but it will go to Communication and Information Sciences, Arts, Law, and Life Sciences and at the end of the day, all aspects of our University will be involved because, by the time we look deeply, we might likely see a gap that any of the Faculties in the institution will be able to fill.”.
The Vice Chancellor also encouraged the farmers, who were present at the event and those that would join later, to ensure they key into the initiative, saying, “The process is designed to improve your work and to ensure what you do now will be different from the way you did it before. Because if you do it better, you are likely to get a better result. If you get a better result, your economy is likely to improve. And if your economy improves, Nigeria’s economy will improve and this will make all Nigerians happy”.
In his own remarks, the Academic Supervisor of the project from De Montfort University, Dr Suleiman Yerima, who participated in the official flagging off of the programme via Zoom, said that his institution partnered with the University of Ilorin because of the track record of the indigenous people involved and the track record of the University. Dr Yerima said De Montfort University is pleased to work with UNILORIN on the project, which is targeted at producing long- and short-term technological solutions to notable agricultural problems, which might likely extend the partnership beyond this project.
Dr Yerima, who is a Senior Lecturer of Cyber Security at De Montfort University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, said with the indigenous idea that could provide a solution to the problem of society, every partner in the project must develop “a can do it” attitude.
He added that the partnership will take on the challenge of achieving the prevention of food wastage, enhancing food security, and promoting the emergence of new businesses through support for institutions and farmers.
Speaking earlier, one of the facilitators of the project who doubles as the African Knowledge Base Lead, Prof. J. O. Olaoye, said that the objectives of each KTP programme are to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology and the spread of technical and business skills to the company, stimulate and enhance business-relevant research and training undertaken by the knowledge base, and enhance the business and specialist skills of a recently qualified graduate.
Olaoye, who is a Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, explained that the AVAC initiative will build an innovative solution to enhance the Nigerian agricultural and food value chain systems and improve farmers’ productivity by addressing challenges in food distribution and improving the availability of safe, nutritious foods. He added that this will enhance selling produce at the right time for the right price which will minimise crop spoilage.
Prof. Olaoye also observed that AVAC will ensure less food wastage, increase yield, reduce storage use and reduce CO2 emissions, which will also enable small-holder farmers to access location-based information to link processors, transporters, markets, and distributors.
Other dignitaries on the occasion include the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Olubunmi Abayomi Omotesho; the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Sulyman Folurunsho Ambali; the University Registrar, Mr Mansur Adeleke Alfanla; and the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Prof. D. A. Labode; among others. The programme was also attended by farmers from the three senatorial districts of Kwara State.
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