Report of Visit to Michigan State University
Michigan State University (MSU) invited Kabir Kayode Salman of the Department of Agricultural Economics, UI, as a Visiting Research Scholar to MSU from mid-April to mid-May, 2018. The invitation was in respect of my PhD student (Mr. Osayanmon Wellington Osawe), who is currently a scholar under the Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project’s (NAPP) scholars program. The NAPP project is currently being executed and DR. SAWEDA LIVERPOOL-TASIE, a faculty in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, MSU, is the Principal Investigator.
Osawe, during his residency at MSU, appraised the teaching methodologies there as highly impactful. He took two courses; Advanced Agricultural Development Economics (AFRE 961) and empirical Methods for Field Research in Developing Countries (AFRE 874).
One of the objectives of my visit was to get some feedback on the research of my student. The visit also facilitated interaction with faculty at the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and other MSU personnel. Indeed, my perspectives were broadened by the interaction with over 17 faculty members over a period of four weeks.
I noticed that there is strong relationship between the US government and the department, through the university. In my understanding, this has led to what I describe as ‘holistic agricultural economics’ that integrates and engages the farmers, the agricultural entrepreneurs, food processing industries and the community into her programmes. The extension unit also provides services to the department with impactful outreach programmes. Innovations to the farmers and other stakeholders include training packages on financial accounting, record keeping and management. This is also fully funded by the government. I see an efficient services engagement of faculty members from other disciplines as well. Research collaboration in MSU is quantum and worth emulation. The department has a very strong collaboration with a number of countries and organizations around the world. I also noted that timeliness in MSU are taken very seriously. Time allocated for the commencement and end of classes and seminars are strictly observed.
Another important observation at MSU is its multi-racial faculty cutting across USA, China, India, Ghana, Nigeria, and Nepal among others. This makes the University a true international knowledge depository.
Also of great importance is high level of the technology at the research stations of MSU. These include:
- W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) which showcased robotic milking of cows and highly scientific pasture management practices.
- Food Processing and Innovation Centre (FPIC) which is a practical outfit for food value addition. The small and medium food industries engage the services of FPIC on training or processing/preservation of their products in order to meet required standards. This guarantees food safety and readily meets consumer preferences.
Challenge before University of Ibadan and Nigeria
Research collaborations and proper engagement of stakeholders are very crucial in development. There is a strong need to initiate a conversation around these practices. For instance, how does University of Ibadan see collaborative research as a vision that must be jealously guarded and rewarded? Could there be a special budget for collaborative research? To what extent does the university communicate this in the research space? How does the University engage and improve its services to the immediate communities? For instance, do the farmers, industries/business organisations and markets in the neighbourhood feel the impact of the university in problem solving? Is there a documented relationship between these entities and the university? If there is, how can we improve on the existing relationship? These efforts are essential for stakeholders to timely reach their growth potentials and contribute to economic development. In my opinion, there is currently a disconnect between research findings and policies formulated in Nigeria because drawing inputs from the research outputs of Nigerian Universities is not a priority for government and other stakeholders. There should be shared knowledge of policy options. The university should be the hub of such conversations as we rise to our responsibilities.