The idea for the establishment of the Centre for Agrochemical Technology (CAT) was developed from an initiative taken in 1993 by Professor Ikenna Onyido, Professor of Chemistry and then Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UAM, based on a long-standing scientific collaboration between him and two internationally acclaimed scientists in the Department of Chemistry, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, namely, Professors Erwin Buncel and Gary W. van Loon. Initial funding of Cdn$800,000.00 for the establishment of CAT, dedicated exclusively to manpower development and provision of critical laboratory equipment, was provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). CAT is supposed to be a full-fledged independent training, research and outreach facility within UAM which shall network with other Colleges and Centres in the development and propagation of new and appropriate technologies in agriculture in Nigeria.
Modern (scientific) agriculture involves high inputs not only in terms of machinery and financial credit but also in agrochemicals like fertilizers, pesticides, plant-growth regulators, food preservatives, etc. The present scenario is one in which local farmers are actively encouraged to use agrochemicals which, because they are largely imported into the country, are often difficult to procure. Hence, there is the need to explore the sourcing of these inputs locally. There is also the compelling need to be concerned from the onset, with both short-term and long-term effects of the use of these chemicals on the environment. At present, there is no meaningful database against which future changes in the environment resulting from the extensive and intensive use of agrochemicals can be measured. An evident risk, therefore, is that long-term agricultural productivity may be impaired by and mortgaged to short-term gains in the volume of food production, resulting from the pressing need to improve the situation in Nigeria without taking precautions against environmental degradation.
These issues bring into sharp focus the urgent imperative to take immediate steps to ensure evolution of agricultural practices that are sustainable, in the sense that the milieu in which these practices operate remains largely unchanged. This can be achieved, in part, by instituting a mechanism for consistent study and monitoring of existing technologies with a view to determining and documenting their environmental consequences.
Parallel to the above-stated concerns and needs is the issue of environmentally safe and friendly agrochemicals. These concerns provide the impetus for the search for safer pesticides, plant-growth substances, food preservatives, etc from natural sources, and their possible chemical synthesis.
The foregoing constitutes the rationale for the establishment of CAT, which is organised to evolve scientific, technical and instrumental capabilities within UAM to undertake the functions discussed above, which are important components of a modern sustainable agricultural delivery system.