Agricultural research in Nigeria started formally with the establishment of a botanical garden in Lagos during the late 19th century. This garden was part of a network of gardens established under British rule, focusing on the introduction of new crops. In 1903 the Forestry and Botanical Department (renamed Agricultural Department) for southern Nigeria was created. In 1912 this was divided into two regional departments resulting in the establishment of a Department of Agriculture for northern Nigeria. Then in 1914, with Nigeria’s unification, the two departments were merged to form a new Department of Agriculture.

Progress was made in terms of infrastructure and human resources resulting in new research stations, more research personnel, and a more technical research program that included plant breeding and plant pathology. Research continued to focus, however, on export crops like oil palm, rubber, cotton and cocoa.

The Forestry and Veterinary Departments were also established in 1914, but only began undertaking research activities in 1920. Fishery research came much later, in 1941, with the establishment of the Fisheries Development Branch by the Department of Agriculture.

Agricultural research was largely the domain of the local colonial government until World War II, when the British government sought a more active role in the promotion of science and technology in its colonies, which led to the creation of several regional agricultural research organizations in West Africa that complemented or partially replaced existing facilities and which were part of the West African Inter-territorial Research Organisation (WAIFRO). Three of these the West African Institute for Oil palm Research (WAIFOR), the West Africa Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (WAITR), and the West African Stored Products Research Unit (WASPRU)were located in Nigeria.

With independence in 1960, the regional institutes were nationalized and the Nigerian Institute for oil palm Research (NIFOR), Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR), Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI) and Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) came on board.

With regional governments formed after Nigeria achieved independence in 1960, research activities were regionalized, which eliminated federal government involvement. These regional efforts, however, did not yield the expected results prompting the federal government to once again intervene in the 1960s, which was followed by major reorganization and expansion of research institutes in the 1970s and the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria first came on board in 1977.

The first ARCN along with other sectoral councils were abolished in 1977 and a Nigerian Science and Technology Development Agency established in their place. Further changes came in with the Research Institutes Establishment Order in 1980, under which many research stations and departments were upgraded to national institutes. The research institutes underwent further significant reorganization, including review of their mandates as part of the green revolution programme of the early 1980s. The changes in coordination continued under the military regimes. But in 1992, the need to re-align agric research to the federal ministry of agriculture was accepted by government and the Agricultural Sciences Department along with the fifteen agricultural research institutes were formally returned to be fully integrated into their sectors.

In 1999 the Federal Military Government signed the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria decree No 44 of May 26, 1999. There was a lull in the take–off activity as government focused its priorities in the implementation of the various Presidential Initiatives and the National Special Programme on Food Security.

Presidential Retreat on Agriculture and Food Security was held at Kaduna in December 2005 where weak linkage between research and agricultural production was identified as a major constraint.

Presidential Advisory Committee on Improving Linkages between Research and Production was then inaugurated with the following Terms of Reference (TOR)

  • To identify existing constraints and limitations on linkages
    To recommend strategies to enhance public and private partnerships in research
    To propose strategies for enhancing linkages between research and production
    To identify roles of key stakeholders in improving linkages
    To set targets for research institutes as well as streamline their basic functions

PAC submitted its report in July 2006 to the Presidential Forum on Improving Linkages between Research and Production in August 2006 and the Presidential Implementation Committee on Improving Linkages between Research and production was set up with Deputy Governors and others as members. The Honorable Minister of Agriculture was the chairman.

Presidential Implementation Committee on Improving Linkages between Research and Production was then inaugurated and mandated to ensure the systematic and consistent implementation of all the recommendations of the PAC Give quarterly report on the implementation status/stages to the Presidential Forum.
The PIC presented its first quarter report to Mr. President in November 2006 with the key recommendation being the immediate take-off of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria as the global best practice institutional arrangement for coordination and supervision of agricultural research. Based on this, an Executive Secretary was appointed for ARCN in November 2006 and thus the Council took off.