Automobile manufacturer The Honda team from Ogun State in Nigeria recently visited IITA Headquarters to strengthen the partnership between IITA and Honda and explore future areas of collaboration.
The team was joined by other representatives from Honda Head Office in Japan, who could not make it down to Nigeria due to restrictions from the newly discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus. They joined virtually nonetheless.
Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General- Partnerships for Delivery, welcomed the team and shared IITA’s history and present activities, including those in the hubs and stations across Africa. While explaining the goal of the Institute, Dashiell mentioned that IITA focuses on small-scale farmers but also understands the need for large-scale agriculture, which requires mechanization. He added that IITA could not solve the problem of mechanization alone, hence the need for a strong partnership with private sector actors like Honda. “Without partnerships, IITA will fail. Hence, we are open to a professional relationship and even friendship,” he said.
Giving a presentation on the activities of BIP and the Agribusiness Mechanization Unit in partnership with other companies, Diallo Thierno, Consultant at IITA’s Post Harvest Engineering Unit, stated that low access to mechanization for both production and processing is the major constraint to increasing food production in Africa. About 60 to 70% of farmers use crude tools to farm and process crops, and according to FAO, farmers form about 70 to 80% of the African population. “However, IITA believes that when adequate mechanization is introduced, Africa will not only feed its own population but will increase food production for the rest of the world,” he said. He further mentioned several companies IITA has partnered with to produce good agricultural machinery and organized training on using them.
Following the presentation, Takatsugi Kawano, Director General of Honda, explained their interest in developing African agriculture through agricultural products and machines. “We understand that most farmers in Nigeria operate on a small scale and we are wondering how we can promote our products to these smallholder farmers,” he said.
Responding, Kolawole Peter, IITA Post-Harvest Specialist, mentioned that Honda produces the best machinery in Africa, but it seems to be expensive; as a result, there are now imitations. He suggested that IITA and Honda could develop good and affordable machines for farmers that no company can compete with. “We are ready to assist Honda to push out its products to farmers,” Kolawole said.
Discussing the next step, Hirohide Ichikawa, Honda Managing Director at Ogun State, said to expect products in partnership with Honda and IITA after giving feedback to the head office in Japan.