Federal University of Agriculture: Enhancing and Modernising the Future of Agriculture
CS Fedaral
CS Fedaral

The world is growing and developing fast. The technological advancements and everything that comes with it have escalated quickly, which started as a trend and now has become a norm. With respect to the advancements in the technological field, human needs have changed. And, in this modern world, the essential need to sustain human life has changed.

Though the internet has replaced one of the major essentials from the list of essentials, one reason that has remained constant throughout the entire journey has been food. While most of us get food served on our plates, nicely decorated with the aroma of deliciousness, it is the elegant patience and resilience of farmers all across the world who toils on fields to bring that food to our tables.

Even though the field of agriculture is side-lined in the process of fast development, it is the agricultural universities that are taking a step forward and making a collaborative effort with the farmers to make relevant improvements and bring out innovative solutions from beneath the soil to the plates.

One such university that has catered to development, research and agricultural studies is the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. Located next to the river Ogun-Osun, Nigeria, the university caters to promoting agricultural education and services for the development and attainment of self-sufficiency in food and fibre.

The Knowledge Review, in its venture to find The Best Agriculture Institutes to Watch in 2022′, came across this university located in the tropical lush of Nigeria. In an exclusive meeting with the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Felix Kolawole Salako, he shared the unique educational pedagogies of the university and how the university is helping the youngsters have an excellent career in the vast field of agriculture that is in search of innovative solutions to cope up with the surging demands of the world for survival.

The First Step towards Self-Sufficiency

Set up on the first day of 1988, The Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, is one of Nigeria’s four specialised universities dedicated to agriculture. The inception story of this specialised and unique university is based on the then-new concept of promoting agricultural education and services for agricultural development, and the university’s establishment was the first step towards attaining self-sufficiency in Food and Fibre.

The credit for the university witnessing tremendous and remarkable growth and development goes to its Vice Chancellors that served the university since its inception. The current Vice-Chancellor of the University is Prof. Felix Kolawole Salako, who assumed office in November 2017.

In its tradition of excellence, the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, has continued to produce through its endowed human and material resources. These quality graduates are well skilled and adequately furnished with the comprehensive information required for engaging in economic and agricultural production. Presently, there are 51 Academic Departments and 10 Colleges in the university.

EXIGIS for Value-based Learning

The values that define the pass-outs of The Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta are highlighted and broadened under the banner of EXIGIS, which stands for Excellence, Integrity, Integrity, Global Relevance, Innovation and Service to Humanity.

Classifying all the values under the flagship of EXIGIS, though every value the university aims to imbibe the following qualities:

Excellence:  Ensuring the highest standards of academic excellence, competency, and a strong

sense of responsibility and professional ethics.

  • Inculcating team spirit and leadership skills among staff and students of the university
  • Transforming our programmes for effective learning, knowledge discovery, and community service.

Integrity: Accepting personal and collective responsibility on agreed objectives, being

held accountable and challenging poor performance

  • Employing well-trained and highly motivated staff that is result-oriented to achieve the university’s vision and mission
  • Demonstrating integrity in our interactions within and outside the University Community
  • Promoting quality teaching and learning experiences that prepare a student for life, work, and leadership.
  • Ensuring the best principles of academic and professional ethics and personal conduct.

Global Relevance: Cultivating diversity through varied academic programmes and global outreach in staff recruitment and students’ enrolment.

  • Networking with other educational institutions, government agencies, industries, businesses, and other groups to enhance our institutional orientation.

Innovation: Equipping staff with entrepreneurial and enterprising skills to enable them to serve as mentors and models for the students

  • Producing responsive, creative and flexible academics and graduates always striving to do things better and following best practices
  • Supporting learning, discovery, and informed risk-taking ability that creates new possibilities.

Service to Humanity: Encouraging social and civic responsibility

  • Connecting our university and community through clear and frequent collaborations and communications
  • Developing the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind
  • To build great leaders found worthy in learning and character.
  • To generate and advance knowledge through teaching, research, and provision of excellent learning conditions.
  • To contribute to sustainable development through community engagements

Vision

  • To be a Centre of Excellence in knowledge generation towards global development and the sustainability of an environment-friendly society.

Mission

  • To build great leaders found worthy in learning and character.
  • To generate and advance knowledge through teaching, research, and provision of excellent learning conditions.
  • To contribute to sustainable development through community engagements.

Professor Felix Kolawole Salako: A Leader Groomed in Soil

Prof. Felix Kolawole Salako is the current Vice-Chancellor of the University, and he is the driving force behind the success of the one its kind agriculture industry. Being a leader who has been groomed in the soil, he is a seasoned professor of Soil Physics along with being a renowned and Registered Soil Scientist. To add another laurel to his name is also a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria (FSSN) and Agriculture Society of Nigeria.

Keeping the family ritual alive, he is the sixth substantive Vice-Chancellor of the university. He has climbed his way to the top by serving in various capacities at the university. He was the Head of the Department of Soil Science and Land Management, Director of Agricultural Media Resources and Extension Centre (AMREC). Before taking up the role of Vice-Chancellor, he also served two terms as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (2008-2010 and 2010-2012).

Talking about his visionary and executive leadership style, the university management says, Prof. Salako has been working assiduously to ensure peace and tranquillity, tremendous infrastructural development and qualitative leadership, which is propelling the university towards a world-class status. He is providing a very strong institutional support for members of the academic community, an effort which has culminated  into winning of Postgraduate Scholarships (by many of the university’s young staff) and several Research Grants both locally and internationally.

Armouring the Youth with Agricultural Excellence

To enhance academic learning and equip the students with the means to excel in the agricultural space, the university has launched various schemes and initiatives like the Community-Based Farming Scheme (COBFAS), the National Village and Smart Agriculture Programme in conjunction National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Entrepreneurial Studies.

Emphasising more about entrepreneurial studies, Prof. Felix Salako says, Regarding entrepreneurship, among others, our Farm Practical Year (FPY) students are exposed to the rearing of day-old chicks to table size and management of cattle, pig, rabbit, fish etc. Our postharvest activities include well garnished roasted broiler for sale, cheese making from freshly harvested cow milk, garri and oil palm processing. It also involves the processing of paddy rice into aromatic and non-aromatic, parboiled and non-parboiled rice with a view to capturing the various market segments. During the dry season, FPY students are trained on the importance of fadama resource as a veritable land resource for vegetables to make cheap money with little or no cost of production.”

“The University also established Graduate Farming Scheme (GRADFES) where graduates from the university were encouraged to take up farming activities. Irrigation system for dry season farming is being constructed as part of water dam construction for the university, he further adds.

Understanding the Global Agriculture

Agriculture in different states, countries, and even continents is different, depending on the climate, soil texture, pattern, etc.

To provide a global agricultural perspective to the students on the Federal University, the Directorate of Research, Innovations and Partnerships (DRIP) was recently established by the university to facilitate processes of scholarships for early career academic staff and coordinated the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU) and Partnership agreements with International Research Institutes, Organisations and Universities to create staff and student exchange programs and encourage teaching and research collaborations.

“The Student Industrial Work Experience (SIWES) is also used to connect our students with the world of works outside the University,” Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Felix Salako, added.

The Perfect Blend of Curricular and Extracurricular Activities for Holistic Development

The university understands the importance of holistic development in this modern world, where every little thing about students matters. In that future prospectus, the Federal University of Agriculture has curated its curriculum in a way that provides the students with an ideal path to holistic development.

Explaining in depth about the curriculum curation, Prof. Felix Salako says, In terms of curricular activities, each department has peculiar course systems including lecture hours, practical classes, assignments, seminar presentations and projects which allow the students to research on their field of choice.

“In terms of extracurricular activities, there are various sporting activities involving both interdepartmental/unit competitions and external competitions with other universities. Other extracurricular activities include Red Cross, Man o War, Boys and Girls Brigade, Boy’s Scout, Literary and Debating Clubs, different student associations, farmers club etc.,” he further adds.

Smart Agriculture: Enhancing Agricultural Education

Smart Agriculture Education is the need of the hour in this modern and fast world. In particular, the Federal University of Agriculture launched a remote student-centred project for smart agriculture to initiate smart agricultural schemes in modern-day farming. In the conquest of this FUNAAB Farm Practical Year (FPY), students have the privilege of being the first Nigerian University students to be exposed to smart agriculture.

Talking about this program in detail, Prof. Felix Salako emphasised, As we speak, we have a smart brooder which enables our students to monitor brooding of day-old chicks from their homes or anywhere in the world. Similarly, we have smart irrigation and soil nutrient monitor, which also enables students to remotely operate an irrigation system to determine the right water volume to apply based on prevailing soil moisture content and the level of NPK in the soil. Virtual and eLearning have also been adopted after the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic with smart boards and other relevant equipment mounted in classrooms.

Preparing the Youth for the Future

Looking at the advancement in the agricultural space, the university along with modern agriculture, demands the future to be prepared for future agricultural endeavours. The Vice-Chancellor explains how the university curates and prepares the students for the future: Laboratories have been massively equipped with state-of-the-art equipment since 2018. Our students, especially during the FPY programme, are being transformed from the manual which is mainly small scale to profitable commercial large scale.

Asserting the importance of achieving the target and the unique middle ways of achieving it the university management, To achieve this, modern facilities such as tractors and their accompanying implement (plough, harrows and ridgers), boom sprayer, fertiliser spinner, combined harvester, trailers and driers have been supplied by the University Management under the leadership Prof. F.K. Salako.”

“Our university has a functional Guidance and Counselling unit, and there is also an allocation of students by each Department to advisers for the purpose of guiding the students academically and providing them support towards emotional stability,” Prof. Felix Salako further added.

Achievements Accolades and Awards

  • In 2014 FUNAAB was awarded the Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment (CEADESE) and since then has strengthened human and material capacity for Agricultural Development and has focused on teaching, learning and research excellence in Agriculture productivity in the face of climate change challenge. The Centre has trained many foreign students who have gone back to their various countries to be change agents.
  • In 2021, National University Commission (NUC) ranking, FUNAAB was ranked fifteenth (15th) position overall, Fifth (5th) position amongst the Federal Universities and First (1st) position amongst the Universities of Agriculture in Nigeria.
  • FUNAAB runs a Cattle Cooperative Ventures where external stakeholders are allowed to be a part of cattle rearing. It is a venture where members of staff and the community bring in their calves and cattle to be reared by the Unit of the University for a token. Gown and Town relationship exists in this wise
  • In 2018, FUNAAB recorded a landmark and monumental breakthrough in the area of Poultry Breeding and Genetic Research in the use of Artificial Insemination Breeding and Hatching Management.
  • The National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB) formally registered FUNAAB’s improved indigenous chicken breed known as the FUNAAB ALPHA.
  • Another major achievement is the construction of the dam for potable water and irrigation purposes.

Envisioning the Future

Every Vice-Chancellor has taken the Federal University ahead and made notable progress in agriculture and agricultural education. When asked about how the current vice-Chancellor, Prof. Felix Salako, envisions the future of this prestigious agricultural university, Prof. Felix Salako handed out a list that he wants to achieve with the university.

  • To make the university attractive for students and build their capacity for excellence in any chosen career irrespective of the area of study
  • FUNAAB hopes to optimise its natural resources to double the internally generated revenue from different ventures. As approved by the Governing Council, the scaling up of enterprises such as Bakery, fufu, Cashew, Palm Wine, Honey, Turkey, Broiler, Layer Units, Plantations (yam, plantain, cassava, oil palm) and aquaculture will be fully implemented.
  • The University’s Central Laboratory located within CEADESE is well equipped. Some Colleges like Engineering and Veterinary Medicine have also been equipped with specialised equipment.
  • To intensify commercialisation and foster more research collaborations between the university and reputable institutions and donor agencies.
  • To develop more media materials from research and extension output for information dissemination.
  • To facilitate staff and student exchange programmes worldwide.

Appreciating the leadership quality of the Vice-Chancellor, the university management says, “Our University under the leadership of the current Vice-Chancellor has strengthened the synergy between science and humanities with strong relationships with world-renowned Professor of arts and humanities. This has improved our community development and extension activities.”

An Educator’s Advice for the Future Agronomist Educator

Advising future educators in the field of agriculture, Prof. Felix Salako advice, Our advice will be that the educator should design their curricula in a way that allows students to see agriculture as a business rather than mere farming activities by including the development of their students’ talents through all the various value chains of agriculture. Also, agriculture must be made pleasant to the students by using modern equipment to train them.”

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