The Director General of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Dr Nteranya Sarginga, has described Nigerians as the most hospitable people in Africa.
He spoke as he bows out after 11 years of leading the largest agricultural research institute in Africa.
Sarginga, who is the first African to lead the institute, hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
He had served as a student researcher before returning as the first African DG in 2011.
While giving account of his stewardship to select reporters at the weekend, the outgoing chief executive called on African leaders to invest more in agriculture to feed Africans and lead in exportation of farm produce to strengthen economies and provide jobs.
Sarginga, who took over leadership in 2011, is famous for his ‘people first’ policy which saw the institute regain the trust of staff, a development that helped staff and other stakeholders give their best to the institute.
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The policy has helped IITA regain its position as the leading agricultural research institute in Africa attracting new grants and projects across the world.
He said: “ When I became the 7th DG of IITA and started work on 1 November 2011, 1 used the People Strategy to inform the Business Strategy (IITA Refreshed Strategy 2012-2020) as the best approach to lead and develop the organization. Both strategies had to work together to enable the organization to deliver on its mission and mandate of transforming the agricultural agenda in Africa.
“Most staff in IITA and other organisations have asked me about my People Strategy. My answer has been that you will not find that in any annual report and probably not in any internal IITA document either. Yet we all agree that “people are the most important assets in any institution.” For me the people strategy is the link between the business strategy and the implications for human resources. It answers questions such as what are we good at, what capabilities do we need, and when and where do we need them? I spent a lot of time early in my administration to get answers to such questions from all categories of IITA staff at headquarters and hubs.”
To his credit, IITA successfully introduced the youth agripreneurship programme which opens up opportunities for youths in agriculture.
The programme makes youths see agriculture as a business instead of a punishment. They get trained by IITA and are supported with resources to succeed in agriculture business.
Through the programme, some selected public secondary schools have been renovated, and supplied technology laboratories to help young tots embrace technology in farming.
Sarginga also built partnerships to with local, national and international stakeholders to promote agriculture and agribusiness and financing.
Though he indicated interest in returning to his country of birth, DRC, Sarginga, who was installed as the Aare Afurugbin-ola of the Source by the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi last year, said he still has a lot of work to do in Nigeria.
He commended the enormous hospitality he enjoyed in Nigeria, saying Nigerians are perhaps the most hospitable people in Africa.