- Tell us about yourself.
My name is Iredele Ogunbayo, a researcher and project administrative manager at the Innovation Lab for Policy Leadership in Agriculture and Food Security (PiLAF), University of Ibadan. PiLAF is a policy research centre that has the vision to influence policy at the local, national, and regional levels. I also work as PiLAF’s Research Director at the African Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ANAPRI) in Lusaka, Zambia.
I am currently a STAAARS+ fellow at Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, USA. Together with two other colleagues, we are studying “Households’ Resilience to Covid-19 and Insecurity Shocks in Nigeria”.
Having a clear understanding that networking and collaboration is crucial to having a successful research career, I have joined a couple of research networks, one of which is ALL-IN Research Network (ARN). I am also an affiliate member of the Collaborative for Econometrics and Integrated Development Studies (CEIDS) community at Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame, USA.
I have worked as a consultant for World Fish Malaysia and served as research field / in-country coordinator for several projects funded by Michigan State University and USAID, the majority of which are under the Feed the Future Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project. This particular experience was a defining moment for me because I had the rare privilege of working directly with two foremost Agricultural Economist – Prof. Tom Reardon & Prof. Saweda Liverpool-Tasie.
Prior to my career switch from banking to research, I had a ten-year stint working in different banks and in several roles, including credit, in Nigeria’s banking industry. Some of my experiences in the sector have helped me understand clearly the challenges faced by smallholder farmers.
I am currently a doctoral student at the Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan. My thesis focuses on “Energy utilization within the agricultural value chain in Nigeria.” I hold a BSc and MSc degree in Agricultural Economics, both from the University of Ibadan. I also hold an MBA from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife..
Now, away from research, I am very passionate about grassroots chess development. I work as a chess administrator in Nigeria and serve as a member of the competitions’ committee of the Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF). In addition to this role, I serve my state of domiciliation (Oyo state) as the head of the state’s chess association.
- What are some of your research interests and why are you passionate about it –( particular topic mentioned)
My research interest includes policy, food security, energy access and utilization, climate change, digital agriculture, gender issues, and credit, among others. The SDGs provide a guide on very important issues that are of global concern. SDG 2 has “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” as its focus. I consider food security as one of the most important outcome variables of any agricultural research and I am particularly interested in understanding how different variables affect household food security, in developing countries. Food availability, access, nutrition, and utilization are all important to the continued existence of the human race. With several factors such as climate change, competing land use, and low yields especially in developing countries, affecting food security, there is an urgent need for more emphasis to be given to solving the problems of food insecurity as population growth remains on the rise in these countries.
- What are the most interesting research findings from your work so far?
Among all the research studies that I have undertaken, those that centre on smallholder farmers have been quite instructive and interesting. My current work at PiLAF and the interactions I have had with smallholder farmers across Nigeria have placed evidence-based policy at the centre of solutions to the myriads of problems facing agri-food systems.
The entire five stages of the policy process – agenda setting, design, adoption, implementation, evaluation, and reform must be all inclusive with the participation of all important stakeholders. In Nigeria, for example, evidence from some of our work indicates that some categories of stakeholders are not usually aware of some policies, and this is largely due to the fact that they are not invited to participate in the policy process from the start (agenda setting). This has, sometimes, led to the disenfranchisement of important actors. Policies are expected to emerge from identified problems by stakeholders after wide-reaching engagements.
I have especially realized, through some of my fieldwork and research work, that farmers are quite knowledgeable. They might have poor record-keeping habits yet provide near-accurate information. Lastly, I have also realized that giving feedback on research findings to farmers and other relevant stakeholders makes them feel valued and feel that they are important partners in solving their problems. Research findings dissemination completes the research cycle. Researchers are encouraged to do this.
- What are some challenges you face in your industry?
My response to this question will be on two fronts – the agricultural industry as well as the agricultural research space. Working in a policy research centre has enabled me to see the problems facing the agricultural industry from various perspectives. Apart from the traditional and age-long problems still facing the industry like poor road network, lack of storage facilities, poor energy access, poor access to mechanization, low access to credit, land-tenure system, dependence on rain-fed agriculture, outbreak of pests and diseases, poor access and high cost of fertilizer and agrochemicals; other challenges like climate change, poor access to digital technology, inconsistent and poorly designed policies, poor uptake of research findings, are major factors affecting the food system.
While climate change has received so much attention, the relevance of policy is yet to be taken seriously. On the side of agricultural research, especially in developing countries; Nigeria is yet to receive the required attention. There is a dearth of funding which affects almost everything. Researchers lack adequate access to tools and a conducive environment to conduct high-quality research. Erratic power supply, poor remuneration, and poor incentives are some of the problems. Universities and research institutes do not have adequate resources such as internet and access to journals. Also, a critical problem remains the lack of convergence between the “town and the gown”. Researchers do not communicate with the industry and vice-versa. There is a need to strengthen the weak link and ensure there is a bi-directional relationship. Lastly, researchers still prefer to speak with each other. This is okay but there is a need to speak more with policy makers to ensure research outputs are utilized.
- What is the most promising and /or exciting part of your research work?
My research area has largely been on micro-level studies.
Very recently, I was introduced to the economy-wide modelling through my work with the African Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ANAPRI). ANAPRI is at the forefront of promoting the Policy and Investment Prioritization through Value Chains (PPVC) approach. This approach was developed by BFAP and IFPRI and it supports the identification and prioritization of value-chains for greater private and public-sector investment. PPVC has several elements and requires very rigorous analysis with the use of partial equilibrium (PE) and computable general equilibrium (CGE) analytical tools. With ANAPRI’s support, I have been able to attend a training at Nairobi and Stellenbosch on economy-wide modelling and PPVC respectively.
Once I am done with enhancing my capacity with use of PE & CGE, I see myself undertaking more macro-level studies. This, however, will not affect my love for farmers and microlevel studies.