History of Agricultural Engineering

Source – https://engineering.unn.edu.ng/agric-bioresources-engineering-history/

Establishment and Initial Development

Established in 1962, UNN Department of Agricultural Engineering is the oldest in Nigeria. Started and developed by academic personnel from Michigan State University (M.S.U), the Department benefited from the best of the land grant philosophy of many of the bigger and better known American Universities, a philosophy that found optimum expression in their Faculties of Agriculture. So, at the beginning under the Headship of Professor J.O Boyed, the Department together with the Department of Agricultural Mechanization was based in the Faculty of Agriculture for administrative purposes while, at the same time, it was based in the Faculty of Engineering for its academic regulation and administration. As a result of this arrangement, the Department was very well equipped as it had free use of direct responsibility for maintenance and repair of all the agricultural machinery and equipment in the Farm Operations Unit of the Faculty of Agriculture. To facilitate the discharge of that responsibility the Department was provided with a very well equipped Fabrication Workshop, a Carpentry/Farm Structures Workshop and a Farm Power and Machinery Workshop in the Farm Operations Centre. Similarly, with the first two years of the five-year programme being the same for all the Departments of the Faculty of Engineering, students of Agricultural Engineering Department took the foundation engineering courses and the workshop technology courses in well furnished mechanical engineering workshops, civil engineering workshops/laboratories and electrical engineering workshops/laboratories.

  • The Department therefore, had a very solid foundation and, until 1966 enjoyed steady growth and development under the combined efforts of the MSU team and the Dutch-Technical-Aid academic personnel, headed from 1964 by Dr. B.F. Cargill (Late) of MSU. All the seven or eight academic staff at that time were expatriates the first Nigerian academic staff, an assistant lecturer, was employed in October, 1966. At that time, three other Nigerians were away in U.S.A. doing their M.Sc. /Ph.D. degree work as staff-in-training.
  • The department produced its first set of Agricultural engineering graduates literally on the eve of the Nigerian civil war in 1967. The expatriate staff had been compelled to leave some days before the graduation ceremony when the situation in the country had worsened to a point where the expatriates felt threatened. In fact the graduation ceremony for the first indigenously trained Nigerian agricultural engineers took place at night and was the last official public event of the University at UNN before the civil war erupted.
  • Post Civil War Era:  At the end of the hostilities in 1970, it was heartbreaking to observe that all the previously accumulated teaching and research equipment in the different laboratories and workshops had been completely ruined; the carcasses of some are still there as sad reminders. The department with the rest of the University had to pick up bits and pieces from the ruins and devastation of the three-year civil war. Of course, the expatriate staff did not return. But undaunted, the Department struggled to re-establish itself and succeeded admirably in doing so.
  • For logistic and other reasons, the Agricultural Mechanization Programme was discontinued in 1970. Agricultural Engineering Department came to be based wholly in Faculty of Engineering, administratively, academically and physically. But the department retained its facilities in the Farm Operations Centre. It has also retained the good relationship with the Faculty of Agriculture such that use of the machinery, equipment and facilities of the Farm Operations Centre are readily made available for its teaching/research uses as needed.
  • The Department has continued to produce graduate agricultural engineers every year since 1970. Agricultural engineers trained in the Department are found in every sizeable establishment in Nigeria that needs the services of agricultural engineers – Ministries of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Institutes, private and publicly owned food companies and agro-industries, agricultural machinery sales and services companies, the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization, Universities, Polytechnics, etc. In fact, our graduates are today playing leadership roles in many of these establishments. There are few Agricultural Engineering Departments in the country which do not have our graduates as members of their academic staff. Fourteen out of the currently seventeen members of the Department’s own academic staff are graduates of the Department at either B.Eng or M.Eng level, or both.
  • The undergraduate student enrolment of the Department has varied between 180 and 200 in recent years. The objective is to stabilize at a population of 250, i.e. 50 students per year of study, on the average.
  • The Pioneering and Leadership Role of the Department: The interruption caused by the civil war notwithstanding, the Department of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering (DABE), has for years continued to play a pioneering and leadership role in the development of the discipline of Engineering in Nigeria. DABE has done so by contributing and helping to establish most of the other Agricultural Engineering Departments in the country, through assistance with programme/curriculum development, external examination, staff assessment/recruitment, and training of academic staff. Since 1975, staff members of the Department have served the national professional society, the Nigerian Institution of Agricultural Engineers (NIAE), which is a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, in various capacities. Staff members of the Department have also served as active members of the Advisory Committee and resource persons for the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization. In 2004, the Department pioneered the name change to Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering in line with global developments, to strengthen the discipline for the production of food, feed and fibre, and to incorporate the relevant specialties of Aquacultural, Forest and Biomass Engineering into its curriculum. This development has since become a model to other Departments in Nigerian universities.
  • COREN Accreditation: The Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN) undertook the first visitation to the Department and accredited its B.Eng. degree program in 1975. Again in 1978, a COREN Visitation Team recommended renewal and the B.Eng. degree program accreditation was renewed. On the basis of the 1978 COREN Visitation Team recommendations, the University made a special grant of N200,000.00 in 1980 to improve certain facilities in the Department. With this generous sum, the Department bought a number of teaching and research machinery and equipment, refurbished its existing laboratories and workshops and furnished a new processing laboratory and a new soil and water laboratory, and built a new implement shed and a farm machinery adjustment/calibration bay, all by the end of 1982. In 1983, the Department acquired its present suite of offices in the then newly built block, now referred to as the Faculty Annex. This suite of offices effectively solved the office space problems of the Department for sometime.
  •  Postgraduate Programme: The Department commenced teaching at post-graduate levels in the 1979/80 session, starting with the M.Eng. degree programmes in Farm Power & Machinery and Agricultural Process Engineering. The other options of Soil and Water Engineering, Farm Structures & Environmental Control/Agricultural Waste Management were introduced a few years later and still at the M.Eng. level. Later, the Ph.D. programmes were introduced in all the options of agricultural engineering. The first Ph. D’s were awarded in 1991. Currently, there are over 100 students enrolled in the Departments postgraduate programmes.
  • Research and Development: Both in teaching and research, the Department has emphasized and tackled the problems of evolving a functional level of agricultural mechanization in Nigeria. It has conducted research, design and development of practical and appropriate machines and equipment to remove the drudgery inherent in the onerous manual labour prevalent in farm work in Nigeria. Not counting many useful products resulting from final–year and post-graduate students projects over the years, major prototype machines, structures and systems of considerable significance and potentials developed by staff

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