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News Published in July 2016

Professors, Strategic to Attaining World-Class Status, Says VC

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olusola Oyewole, has described Professors in the University as vital to the attainment of a world-class status for FUNAAB. The Vice-Chancellor disclosed this during a 2-day Professorial Retreat, held in the University and coordinated by the Directorate of Grants Management, with the theme “Grant-Winning Professors and Strategic Mentoring”. The Vice-Chancellor noted that there was no way a university could be categorised as world-class, without having world-class Professors.

He stressed that the strength of the university depended on the quality of its Professors, adding that, world-class Professors have academic integrity through adhering to strict academic ethics, are widely travelled, well known, are being cited in current developments in their fields and are outstanding in research, teaching and community service. Professor Oyewole tasked the University Professors not to rest on their oars because they have achieved the Professorial status, but think globally and act locally.

Guest speakers at the retreat include the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development), Professor Ololade Enikuomehin, who spoke on the topic, “Rethinking Postgraduate Supervision in FUNAAB: Key Issues and Strategic Options”, where he described postgraduate studies as “providing creative, adaptive graduates with ability, skill and competencies required for meaningful impact in different vocations, professions or endeavours” and putting in place, the appropriate policy framework, implementation, evaluation and routine re-evaluation of outcomes. He took the audience through the FUNAAB postgraduate supervision model and gave suggestions of issues to be reviewed such as policy, research and developmental issues. Professor Enikuomehin concluded by saying that the development and success of postgraduate education in FUNAAB was the business of everyone, Stressing that  “tangible outcomes of the discourse can only be valuable if words translate to actions”.

In the second presentation titled, “Grants Management and Postgraduate Mentoring: Experience from My Works”, the Dean of the College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC), Professor Lateef Sanni, stressed that selecting a good team member is the bedrock of every successful mentoring. He said that in selecting team members, it should be made up of good people with the right skills, right partnership and right opportunity. Professor Sanni added that in winning grants, those involved in the project are very important to the grant provider because a grant is an investment, not a contract, saying grant providers have strict guidelines which include education, gender, age, nationality, scientific track-record, specific expertise, appropriate percentage of committed effort and the use of consultants to fill in the gap.

He also stressed the need for monitoring and evaluation during project management; time and cost saving; mutual trust; and professionalism. Professor Sanni, a Professor of Food Science and Technology, berated the low impact FUNAAB was having in the south-west in terms of food production and agricultural research. On his personal experiences and collaborations, he listed the major achievements of his team members and mentees in the development of partnerships between international researchers in Europe, Africa, private sector, rural processors, small and medium scale enterprises, in order to bridge the gap between primary local processing and urban demand.

He added that in partnership with a local fabricator, two dryers were made for producers in West Africa; through partnerships/linkages, 34 had been manufactured; and a private sector training centre was established for cassava processing in Nigeria for the training of local businesses, professionals and post-graduate students. Others include the development of linkages with international organisations (such as the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture) on cassava processing and the training of local processors; regulatory agencies; and research institutions; developing food safety training manual for small and medium enterprises; and the establishment of consumer acceptability in major urban locations in West Africa, to develop products that meet their needs.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Augustine University, Ilara-Epe, Lagos State, Professor Steve Afolami, gave the third presentation on, “Step By Step Guide for Strategic Postgraduate Mentoring in Nigerian Universities”, where he defined supervision, mentoring and apprenticeship. He stated that a mentor is also a supervisor; who establishes cordial relationship that fosters confidence and harmony in such a way that the student is able to work within the framework of partnership in progress, adding that an apprentice is equally a learner except that in most cases, the student receives no pay from his teacher while the apprentice does. He disclosed further that an apprentice is highly subservient to his/her teacher, whereas, subservience is unhealthy for postgraduate training; a style he said was commonly obtainable in Nigeria. Professpr Afolami recommended that postgraduate training should embrace mentoring rather than either supervision or apprenticeship.

The last speaker was the Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, Professor Andrew Westby, with the presentation titled, “Academic Leadership, Grants Winning and Management in World-Class Universities”, where he defined a proposal as the request for financial assistance to implement a project with funding being sought, in whole or in part, from government funding-agencies, charitable foundations, businesses and individuals. Professor Westby said, “Proposal writing is a skill that can be learned and it requires knowledge in many disciplines beyond the core expertise, e.g. budgets and projects management. Without writing skills, your organisation will not obtain funding required to carry out research and developmental projects”.

He said effective proposals required some elements which include, content development; demonstration of scientific, economic, and social benefits; satisfying programme criteria; addressing funding agencies requirements; proper formatting/language; demonstrating the sustainability of the project’s output; monitoring and evaluation provisions; budgeting; and administrative/ financial capacity/experience. He also noted that a good research proposal also entailed proper referencing of other documentations and citations; demonstrates that it could provide scientific/economic/social benefits; have high probability for success; addresses strategic priority, that is, relevance to donor; consistent with research and development strategies; demonstrate need for financial assistance; and be economically-viable, among others.

The retreat was wrapped-up by the Director, Grants Management and the convener of the programme, Professor Kolawole Adebayo by coordinating the response section with a talk on “Strategic Options for Developing Grants-Winning Professors and Post Graduate Mentees”.

FUNAAB Students Develop Mobile App

A group of students in the University have developed a mobile application (App) called ‘FUNAAB Air’ that allows students get latest updates, organise their academic activities and stay connected with each other in FUNAAB. The students are: Uzoma Ibe, 500-level, Department of Water Resources Management and Agro-meteorology, College of Environmental Resources Management (COLERM), who is the Team Leader, Air View Devs and Google Ambassador; Mr. Abraham Ojeomokhai, 500-level, Department of Food Science and Technology (FST), College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC), who contributed to the development of the Server Side Programming of the Application and Data Analytics, assisted by Mr. Abisayo Ademola, 100-level, Department of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering, College of Engineering (COLENG).

The students, under the name, Air View Developers (AirViewDevs) developed the new App, which is capable of solving issues of lateness to classes through its automatic time-table feature and is also capable of assisting fresh students or returning students in the University to know how to navigate better around the campus with the inclusion of the Google Map Feature on the application. According to the Team Leader; Uzoma, the product is capable of solving programming issues that they are unable to get, since not all students have the luxury of time in checking for such updates on the University’s website. He added that ‘FUNAAB Air’ had made the University’s website very mobile and easily accessible. Uzoma, popularly known as Uzo, said that the team of developers had the aim of using the software development skills to solve problems, adding that they had a goal of contributing their own quota to academic activities of FUNAAB.

Giving details on how the name, ‘FUNAAB Air’ came about; Uzo said that ‘Air’ symbolises freedom, stating that it creates an avenue for different elements to collaborate without obstructions. According to him, “We wanted an avenue for students of FUNAAB to collaborate and access resources and information freely without hurdles or needless structures and we knew that it could only be possible if we adopted the concept of the ‘Air’, which God gives to us freely without any hindrance whatsoever.” On what brought about the software, Uzo stated that he had wanted to contribute towards making the daily campus activities of students, as simple as possible.

According to him, “I understood that life on campus could be tedious at times hence, my search for a medium to simplify things. As time went on, I understood the importance of creating a team to achieve this; a team of three similar-minded students were put in place and we made this goal a priority. It took us years of brainstorming to get something done and the result is ‘FUNAAB Air’. We worked and are still working towards providing a medium for our fellow students to ease their academic activities, facilitate communication among them, and also assist the University as a whole to make the lives of students better”.

He envisaged some of the problems the App could solve, adding that the team noticed that it should not just be an App, but a project that was capable of solving problems even beyond its boundaries. His words: “The truth is that a lot of computer science graduates are without the ability to write codes. Reasons not being that they were not taught or the lecturers did not do their jobs properly”. He noted that through his experience while teaching students in programming, as one of the Google Developer Leaders for FUNAAB, he noticed that students tend to learn faster and better when they were taught by their fellow students. He added that the team decided to extend ‘FUNAAB Air’, not only to include an App, which on its own could solve problems but also to make it a project, in which its membership was opened to any FUNAABite, especially the computer science students. He stated that the team wanted to use the Apps’ source code to teach students the in-depths of software development and server management, noting that they would be helping the University to produce better graduates that would be entrepreneurially-inclined.

On the capacity of the App in relation to the University’s over 13,000 students, Uzo, who is also a skilled Mobile App and Server Side Developer, stated that the team had combined both its financial and technical resources toward ensuring that the App had the capacity of hosting not more than 5,000 students. He added that the App and its services had the capacity to be upgraded, to serve as many students as possible, if sufficient resources were put into its continuous development.  He described the benefits of the App to the students as immense, ranging from being able to carry out their academic activities seamlessly, which would make them better equipped and effective in navigating the University’s environment. According to him, “We believe if the students were better at their academics, then the academic staff would be better at training and developing active and successful students”.

On the security of the application to deter those that are not students of FUNAAB from accessing it, Uzo said that the App was designed for FUNAAB students and could only be used by active students of the University, adding that it was secure but it could be made more secured. He declared that the team was working in collaboration with the Information and Communication Resource Centre (ICTREC) of the University, to provide the means of verifying students’ information before they would be able to create an account or use the App. He, however, noted that when students graduate or leave the University, due to one reason or the other, ICTREC would be able to verify, prevent access and delete such accounts, if they still existed.

He added that ‘FUNAAB Air’ was a gift from the team to the University, saying that “We built it with the latest and standard software development practices to ensure the App performed effectively and we were giving this at no cost to the University because we love FUNAAB”. On how to update the App to include members of staff, he disclosed that the App was just the beta-version and in its active development stage, which could be updated later to allow for staff participation, except for limited resources. Uzor further stated that in the next five years, the ‘FUNAAB Air’ team hoped to use software development skills to solve the problems being faced by academic institutions in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, adding that “We are also going into Agri-technology by developing products that would solve challenges being faced by farmers. He, however, paid glowing tributes to the team’s mentors such as the Head of ICTREC, Dr. Olutayo Ajayi; Mr. Abayomi Babatola and Mr. Seyi Babarinde; all from ICTREC.

Shedding light on the application, the Head of ICTREC, Dr. Olutayo Ajayi, disclosed that the essence of ‘FUNAAB Air’ application was to make information available to FUNAAB students at their fingertips. “It is a mobile application that would benefit the students in the way of letting them know what is happening within the campus, through the use of their mobile phones, and aid the development of their communication technology skills, whereby they can have access to their lectures, tests and examination time-tables real-time, as well as provide teaching and learning platforms, to enhance teaching and learning within the campus”, he said.

Dr. Ajayi noted that the App was an enhancement on the present medium of passing information to students, which involved going to read about information from the notice boards, short message service (sms) and written memos, stressing that with that system, they could only access information while on campus. He, however, pointed out that with the App, students would be able to access information anywhere, at any given point in time, through their mobile phones. Confirming that the App was set to take off, Dr. Ajayi said that it had passed the test phase, but was yet to go live in the University because permission was being awaited for the App to be used to gain access to students’ results. He disclosed further that necessary controls had been put in place to ensure that results were not tampered with, as access codes would be required to log into the platform and students would then be able to access their own results.

Speaking on the contributions of ICTREC to the success of the app, the ICT expert said the Team Leader, Uzoma, is a Google Ambassador that was nominated by the Centre, while he himself alongside his team members, have been enjoying the full support, encouragement and advice needed to make the project a success. Commenting on the fact that none of the Air View Devs team were from the Department of Computer Science; Dr. Ajayi said, “it is not always about your area of study but about interest. You may find it interesting to know that most of the professionals in Information Technology that are very sound in developing programmes are not necessarily from the Department of Computer Science. It is more or less something that boils down to interest and skill. That is why, as I speak to you now, all the Google Ambassadors that we have been having for the past three years have either been from Physics or Engineering Departments”.

Dr. Ajayi, who revealed that the App have no hidden charges, said it was part of the students’ initiative of contributing to give-back to their University, adding that aside the ease that it would provide in passing information and facilitating interaction among the students, it would put them at par with their colleagues in other private universities that usually deploy ICT in their studies.

Dr. Ajayi stated that preparations were already on the introduce Mobile Learning Solution to students by the next academic session. According to him, the initiative is designed to enable students receive lectures and make contributions on their mobile device without necessarily having to be on campus. To achieve this, he said the University was already in partnership with reputable organisations such as Lenovo and Microsoft. Lenovo was expected to take care of the software, while Microsoft would take care of the hardware. He explained further that the platform, which was recently approved by University Management, was not to discourage students’ physical attendance in classes, as they were still required to have at least 70 per cent attendance, before they would be eligible to write their examinations. Rather, the platform would be like a follow-up after classes for the students to play back what they might have been taught in class. Dr. Ajayi, however, disclosed that the platform would not be made compulsory for students because of the financial implication that could be involved.

FUNAAB Don Strengthens Cancer Research with Animal Research

The United Kingdom-trained Professor of Animal Physiology at the University, Professor Okanlawon Onagbesan, has added to knowledge by strengthening cancer research by linking it with animal models.

Professor Onagbesan, described this while speaking on the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) grant that he won, noting that ARC was a collaboration grant between United Kingdom and France in the area of reproduction with relevance to cancer disease research, especially ovarian/cervical cancer.

"We identified a gene that was responsible for the multiplication of cells in chicken tissues and you know, cancer is when a cell multiplies too rapidly and the whole tissue becomes so big. So, we identified a gene that we thought was responsible for this rapid multiplication growth of the cells resulting into cancer. We teamed up with a centre in London that is known for cancer research and we were working with them to see how we could find an efficient protocol to block the expression of such gene actions in ovarian cells with extrapolation, using the result as therapy for curing cancer. The genes were first reported and cloned from chicken cells and it's called epidermal growth factor and its receptor gene. When you add the ligand into the culture, the cells grow very quick but without it, the growth is very slow”, he said.

“So, the cancer research institute was helping to raise antibodies that can be used against that receptors of the epidermal growth factor gene family that will slow down the growth of the cancer cell and we were able to report the genes from chicken ovarian cells. There was over-expression of the receptors in ad libitum fed broiler breeder chicken ovaries resulting in dysfunctional overgrown ovaries, compared to feed restricted counterparts with normal reproductive performance. We were using it to look at the reproductive rate for chickens but from there, we found out that this receptor gene is also relevant to cancer cells. ARC actually sponsored that grant alongside the Journal of Reproduction and Fertility. There, we linked chicken with cancer and we published one or two papers, in collaboration with the Cancer Research Institute, to show that we can use some aspects of chicken research studies to curing or raising antibodies in humans or rats against the rapid cells proliferating resulting in cancer. That was where I came into the research of linking humans with farm animals but then, I moved away from there to other aspects", he added.

Professor Onagbesan, who majored on the reproduction and fertility of farm animals with special interest in poultry birds, said in the course of his research activities, which he started in the UK, he had been able to improve the reproduction of broiler breeder birds, a research he said he did, in collaboration with other renowned scientists from universities in the UK, Belgium and France, using the grants he had won, leading to the publication of several papers in high impact journals.

Similarly, Professor Onagbesan spoke on a research he conducted on a breed of sheep mostly found in Scotland and Wales, called the Mountain Sheep. According to him, they produce a lot of wool but are very poor in reproduction and meat quality, because they have too much fat and the meat is not the kind of meat that people would want to eat. Hence, a lot of sheep were imported from Australia and New Zealand into England. So, they decided that since they had their own sheep; why not produce their own for sustainability by improving it so that it produces more and the meat is better?

The Don, who is presently the Director, World Bank Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment (CEADESE) of FUNAAB, however, challenged researchers to embark on industry-oriented researches that would bring about development and solve pressing challenges being experienced in Nigeria.

FUNAAB, IITA to Partner, to Curb Unemployment

As part of efforts to promote youth entrepreneurship and provide employment in agricultural sector in the country, the Empowering Novel Agri-Business Led Empowerment (ENABLE), Nigerian team, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan recently visited the University to strategise on how FUNAAB can partner with the organisation.

The Director-General of ENABLE, represented by Mr. Zoumana Bamba, said that the project was aimed at engaging Nigerian youths in agriculture. He noted that out of 70 million Nigerian youths, between the ages of 15 and 34, 12.8 million were unemployed (as at March, 2016), while about 15 million youths were under-employed. Mr. Zoumana added that the ENABLE youth programme entailed a collaboration between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and IITA, having about 30 African countries participating in the programme, which is aimed at agribusiness creation, job creation and ensuring gender balance with five years project duration, involving graduate youths and an incubation period for the programme of between 12 to18 months.

The Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Professor Olusola Oyewole, who is also the President, Association of African Universities (AAU), had applauded the team for its concerted efforts at engaging youths in agriculture. He, therefore, promised that an enabling environment would be created for the take-off of the programme in FUNAAB. Speaking earlier, Mr. Zoumana Bamba highlighted the project components, to be at federal and state levels, by leveraging on the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System, development of bankable business proposal as an individual or group and access loan without collateral. He added that the expected outcome of the project include 1,000 agripreneurs to be empowered in each state including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in which 250,000 jobs are to be created on yearly basis, as well as $50,000 to $100,000 investment loan, per agribusiness. In addition, Mr. Bamba added that the expected roles of FUNAAB in the programme were to create an enabling environment for the incubation, start-up business and support in the development of agribusiness curriculum.

Information, Fifth Factor of Production, Says Professor Adebayo

With the widening gap between the industry and the university, the Director of Grants Management, Professor Kolawole Adebayo, has called for the acceptance of information as the fifth factor of agricultural production.  According to him, “There are ways that traditional economics should have improved itself longtime ago by bringing in information as a fifth factor of production. Today’s economics is telling us that without critical information, all the other factors of production cannot be harnessed at their best and optimally useful”.

Delivering a keynote speech at a 3-Day Capacity Building Workshop on Agricultural Information Systems Development, organised by the World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment (CEADESE), Professor Adebayo said that information was the secret weapon among the factors of production and that was why the traditional economics have been silent about it, adding that what distinguishes a successful entrepreneur from a less successful one was the amount of information at his/her disposal and how to deploy that information to achieve the goals of his/her enterprises.

Professor Adebayo, who is also the Project Director of CAVA II, said that people, who were into agriculture and agro-allied enterprises, could access a large body of data from agricultural production to processing to marketing to the logistics of management of movement of goods and services in agriculture to export and international trading in agriculture to extension services as well as to research. He noted that there were several distinct units of data that needed to be processed to become valuable information and cautioned that when a large body of data are scattered and abused, there would not be a coherent message, as he congratulated participants at the workshop for the opportunity to launch themselves into the emerging trend of modern agricultural enterprises management in an information era.

According to him, “I am very happy that we had moved a lot in terms of information management in agriculture”. He further said that as at today, the agricultural value chain differs significantly from its traditional agricultural practices because of the central role of information, saying that “If you are able to transact e-businesses in agriculture, you are better-off than those that can only do cash businesses”. Professor Adebayo described the e-wallet, an Information Communications Technology-based mechanism that allows farmers to acquire inputs and allows government to target subsidy end users, adding that agricultural value chain require information to function, as the emergence of ICT in the agricultural sector, has created new actors in the chain. He noted that the new actors needed to be knowledgeable individuals, not only about agriculture and agricultural practices, but about the use of information to maximise opportunities that agriculture offers.

Professor Adebayo stated that the University was well positioned to play a key role in the training of new cadre of manpower that is required to drive this information service agricultural system.  He, however, congratulated CEADESE for the workshop, as it would help the University to achieve its key objectives of bringing in the right kind of manpower into agriculture. He said that FUNAAB operates a 10 collegiate structure with 14 service centres, including CEADESE. He stressed that the operational arms link up with production farms, agro-processing industries; logistics support services and other ancillary units in the agricultural sector. He added that it was to provide the right kind of people for the future of agriculture, adding that “We are about achieving it so that the knowledge acquired from the workshop could be used to improve the agricultural services of this country”.

Delivering a paper titled, “Introduction to Information Systems Development: Application to Agriculture”, the Director, Centre for Innovation and Strategy in Learning and Teaching (CISLT) of FUNAAB, Dr. Olusegun Folorunso, stated that information services should be made available in all regional languages and at the farmers’ door steps. He stressed that there should be a change in the mindset that would motivate the people towards the building of comprehensive database and information systems for the farming community. Dr. Folorunsho further stated that the development and implementation of proper early warning systems, advisory services, development of expert systems on what-to-grow, when and where; would enhance agricultural productivity. He added that bridging the gap, through the judicious use of ICT between knowledge and practice for sustainable use of natural resources and linkages between research, technology and production as well as reliable and comprehensive information, should be made available at anywhere and anytime. In another lecture titled, “Ethical and Societal Issues in Agricultural Information Systems”, Dr. Folorunso had described agricultural information systems as uniquely positioned to capture, store, process and communicate timely information to decision-makers for better coordination of agricultural systems.

In his lecture titled, “Agricultural Systems, Data Gathering and Agricultural Information Systems: A Conceptual Approach and Nexus with Agricultural Productivity”, Dr. Olalekan Sakariyawo, had described the basic objectives of agricultural system as the provisions of food, feed, fibre and fuel, adding that it could be inferred that agricultural system is multi-functional with externalities. According to him, the use of ICT in agriculture could foster sustainable intensification through reduced cost of agricultural input, increased revenue and income, increased biodiversity in an ecosystem, engendering intelligent response to variable environmental factors and ensuring faster service delivery. Others include increased traceability of the resource input towards a healthier foods delivery and environment, increased networking, collaborative efforts among all the stakeholders, improving technology adoption and increased access to information.

Delivering a lecture titled, “Information Storage and Retrieval, Database Management Systems (DBMS), Using MS Access”, Mr. Ayofemi Emmanuel, had described database as the collection of related files, containing records on people, places or things, noting that prior to digital databases, business used file cabinets with paper files. Mr. Emmanuel stated that to manage information properly, farmers must understand some important principles of database design, adding that database tools and technologies for accessing information from databases help to improve farm yield, income performance and decision-making. He further said that database also ensures good information policy, data administration and data quality assurance through the management of the farm’s data resources.

Speaking on the presentation titled, “Principles of Information Dissemination and Feedback Mechanisms Using ICT Resources”, which was basically a practical session, Mr. Olusegun Adeosun, stated that agricultural informatisation could be described as the degree and process of transforming agriculture sector, through the effective use of ICTs in agricultural production, operation and management. Dr. Matthew Olayiwola, while delivering the paper titled, “R System for Statistical Computing”, stated that ‘R’ is a flexible statistical software package that offers the environment an object-oriented programming and statistical data analysis. In his presentation titled, “Principles of Data Manipulation and Information Analysis Using MS-Excel”, Mr. Oluwaseun Hamzat, had described spreadsheet as a computer programme that displays numerical data in cells in a simulated accountant's worksheet of rows and columns in which hidden formulas can perform calculations on the visible data.

Earlier, the Director of CEADESE, Professor Okanlawon Onagbesan, had stated that the days were gone when people sit down in their laboratories, formulate research and just publish papers such as for promotion, even though “we get accused all the time by the industry that we have not been where we are supposed to be”. According to him, “We are not influencing them. No contact with them because there is nothing they could use from the university”. He disclosed that the CEADESE was created to bridge such gaps, saying that the purpose of the workshop was to discuss things that were not usually learned in the class. Professor Onagbesan stressed that the workshop was to expose participants on how to collect data and process them to make them more useful not only to themselves, but to the industry and government, adding that there would be four more workshops before December, this year. He noted that there would also be opportunities for CEADESE students to attend free-of-charge, as participants were presented with certificates at the occasion.