Project Team

About BASICS Project Team

Program Management Unit

Graham Thiele

Organization: CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas
Title: Program Director
Graham is the Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) which brings together multiple partners to improve food security and reduce rural poverty through research for development. He provides intellectual leadership to develop a shared vision, build a strong partnership among participating centers, partners and other stakeholders and manage for outcomes. Graham previously led social and health science research at the International Potato Center encouraging a shift to proactive impact enhancement rather than just documenting adoption and impact. He led Andean Change Program (DFID funded) on behalf of CIAT and CIP with 20+ national partners, using evidence from impact of participatory methods to drive policy change for more inclusive agricultural innovation. In this role he contributed to development and widespread use of Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis to improve research relevance and enhance impacts. Prior to that, he jointly coordinated the Papa Andina Partnership Program. Papa Andina and its partners in the Andes introduced novel approaches to value chain driven innovation with significant impacts on small farmer welfare through improved market linkage and adoption of “new” technology, including both improved and previously undervalued native potatoes. Graham joined CIP in 1994 and since 2012 has been leading the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

Hemant Nitturkar

Organization: International Potato Center (CIP)
Title: Project Director
Hemant Nitturkar is a tri-sector professional with multi-country experience of over last two and half decades in research, commercial agriculture operations, information technology, financial services, venture capital and entrepreneurship development. He is a serial entrepreneur with experience of running four businesses, selling one, mentoring over one hundred startups. He is a two-time recipient of the Governor’s Gold Medals from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, India, for his academic achievement in BSc (Agriculture) and MSc (Genetics and Plant Breeding). He holds a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance from Securities Institute of Australia, Sydney and has also received Executive Management Training in Raw Material Procurement for Agro-processing units from IIM, Ahmedabad and the Venture Capitalist Development Program, ISB, Hyderabad, India.He is passionate about creating innovative grassroots business solutions to social and environmental problems facing the developing counties with large youth population by bringing in all the stakeholders in a symbiotic relationship. He is currently the Project Director for a CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) project called Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System in Nigeria (BASICS) at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.

Breeder’s Seed

Peter Kulakow

Organization: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Title: Cassava Breeder / Geneticist
Peter Kulakow is a Cassava Breeder / Geneticist. Peter, a US citizen, obtained his BSc and PhD degress, both in Genetics, from the University of California, Davis in 1981 and 1986, respectively. Prior to joining IITA, He was a environmental consultant and research assistant professor in Agronomy with the Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas from 2000 to 2008. He has extensive postgraduate experience in plant breeding, environmental science, and project management including eight years with the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas and 13 years with Kansas State University. He has also worked as a consultant in Landscape Ecology with the University of Nebraska in Lincoln; as an instructor in Environmental Engineering Technology with Kansas State University; and as a research assistant at the University of California, Davis.

Adeyemi Olojede

Organization: NRCRI
Title: Coordinator and Agro ecological Zonal Scientist
Adeyemi Olujide OLOJEDE is a Systems Agronomist by training with skills in Biometrics and Crop Database Management. He has a B.Sc and M.Sc degrees in Agronomy (Crop Science) from University of Ibadan, Ibadan-Nigeria in 1988 and 1990 respectively and a Ph.D in Crop Production (Cropping Systems) from University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 2005. Dr. Olojede started his career with the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike in 1991 as Research Officer (Grade I) from where he has progressed to the present position of an Assistant Director in 2009. Dr. Olojede is a scientist of international repute with several publications to his credit both in the national and international journals, proceedings, technical reports and chapters in books. He has served as Consultant Agronomist/Data Manager to national and international agencies such as NNPC, Accenture, PIND, CRS, NaOC-Sappiem, IITA, GCP/IBP and NextGen project to mentioned a few. He is a member of some registered professional bodies notable among which are International Biometrics Society (SUSAN GNi), Agricultural Society of Nigeria, International Society for Tropical Root Crops and International Society for Horticultural Science. He has been an active team player in many projects such as Regional Research on Maize and Cassava (RRPMC), EPHTA, Generation Challenge Program (GCP/IBP), COSCA, Cassava Enterprise Development Project (CEDP), Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) Project, RUSEP, NextGen, African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI), Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP) and many others. He is presently the Coordinator in charge of Cassava Research Programme at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike where he has been working for the past 26 years and also the Agroecological Zonal Scientist for Cassava Weed Management Project and ACAI project in the same Institute. Dr. Olojede is happily married and well-travelled.Your responsibilities under BASICS project: Leading the basic seed production component.

Elohor Mercy Diebiru-Ojo

Organization: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Title: International Trials Manager
Elohor Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, the International Trials Manager of the BASICS project IITA, is a plant breeder who gained her PhD degree in Plant breeding and Genetics (2017) from the University of Ghana under the WACCI scholarship while her Masters and Bachelor’s degrees were obtained from the University of Ibadan and Delta state University respectively both in Nigeria. Elohor has worked extensively on cassava from plant conservation via tissue culture and cryopreservation techniques during her position as a Research fellow and research supervisor at the Genetic Resources Centre of IITA. She worked on genetics and physiology flowering of cassava as PhD research, which is one of the objectives of the NextGen cassava breeding project. She is involved in breeding activities of the Cassava breeding unit of IITA. Due to her remarkable research work, she became a Norman Borlaug LEAP fellow having an aspect of her research work carried out at Cornell University where she held the post of a visiting scientist.

Quality Seed

Phillip Olusegun Ojo

Organization: National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC)
Title: Director General
Olusegun Ojo, The Director General of National Agricultural Seeds Council, is an astute seed expert trained both nationally and internationally in Seed Science and Seed Industry development. He attended the Mississippi State University and Iowa State University, USA. He holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Science (MSc) in Agriculture from University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy Analysis from University of Abuja, Nigeria. Dr. Ojo was appointed the DG, NASC in May, 2015. He has previously served as Director of Seed Certification and Quality Control between 2010-2014 and Acting Director General June 2014-May 2015. Dr. Ojo started as Seed Certification Officer 1985-1986, Regional Seed Certification Officer North-West Region 1986-1990, Regional Head, National Seed Service North-East Region 1991-1995. He has presented several technical papers on seed quality control, seed industry development and attended more than 25 international workshops and tours. Dr. Ojo is a member of West Africa Seed Committee (WASC/COASem), the Chair of National Seed Committee, Nigeria and has served as Resource Person at several WASP trainings and workshops in Nigeria.

Julian Smith

Organization: FERA
Title: Crop Pathologist and Molecular Biologist
I am with over 25 years’ experience in agriculture of UK and developing countries, and in forging partnerships in crop health. Trained as a crop pathologist (plant bacteriologist) and molecular biologist, I have worked with crops as varied as potato to banana to coconut and cassava, and in countries of East Africa, South America and Asia. A particular interest has been in advocating for investment with developing countries in mitigating threats of crop pest and disease epidemics and early outbreak response capabilities that build towards a ‘one-world’ outcome for food security. In recent years, I have increasingly provided expert advice on research and policy development for most of the recent major emerging pest outbreaks of East Africa, including Banana Xanthomonas Wilt, Cassava Brown Streak Disease and Maize Lethal Necrotic Disease.

Ishiak Khalid

Organization: National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC)
Title: Deputy Director (Head of Division)
Ishiak Khalid is the Deputy Director (Head of Division), Seed Certification at the National Agricultural Seeds Council, born on April 26, 1965. Mr. Ishiak holds a Bachelor of Agriculture (BAgric.) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin; a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration from Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin and a Master in Agricultural Economics from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Nigeria. Mr. Ishiak started as an Agric. Officer from 1990-1994, Seed Certification Officer for Kwara and Kogi States from 1992-1994, Regional Seed Certification Officer Middle Belt Region from 1994-1997, Regional Seed Certification Officer North East Region from 1997-2010. He was in charge of seed certification in Kano and Jigawa states from 2010-2012, promoted to an Assistant Director and posted to the headquarters, Abuja, in 2011, after which he became a Deputy Director in 2014. He has attended a number of workshops and conferences both locally and internationally. Mr. Ishiak is currently working on his PhD research at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He also loves reading novels and playing scrabble.

Lava Kumar

Organization: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
Title: Head of the Germplasm Health Unit, Virology and Molecular Diagnostics Unit
Lava Kumar is the Head of the Germplasm Health Unit, Virology and Molecular Diagnostics Unit at IITA. His research programs are focused on (a) protecting germplasm health from pathogens and pests; (b) tackling virus diseases of IITA crops (cassava, yam, banana/plantain, cowpea, soybean, and maize), cacao, and vegetables; (c) developing convenient diagnostic tools for identification of pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, and phytoplasma), pests and mycotoxins (aflatoxins); and (d) conducting training courses and workshops in plant disease diagnostics and control, and also higher degree training, leading graduate and postgraduate students to M.Sc. or Ph.D. degrees. He has been leading several R4D projects executed in collaboration with universities, NARS, and ARIs.

Village Seed Entrepreneur

Emmanuel Azaino

Organization: CRS
Title: Head of Agriculture and Economic Growth Unit
Emmanuel Azaino is an agricultural and livelihoods development professional with over 18 years hands-on experience; and has played leading roles in various aspects of agriculture programming such as value chains development, food processing, markets development and linkages, capacity building, agricultural consulting, stakeholder engagement and networking, etc. He joined the Nigeria Country program of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in 2014, and currently works as the Head of Agriculture and Economic Growth Unit. As head of agriculture and economic growth unit, he prospects for new agriculture/livelihood projects as well as oversees ongoing projects in the unit. Prior to joining CRS, he worked as the Senior Program Manager (SPM) at Participatory Partnerships for Community Development (PPCD), a socio-economic development program with focus on capacity building of community development committees in Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Imo, where Chevron (global oil company) operates in the Niger Delta-program funded by Chevron Foundation. As SPM, he had oversight responsibility for the day-to-day administration and management of the program. Earlier on, Emmanuel worked as Agricultural Intervention Specialist with the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), where he was responsible for the design and implementation of the 15-year Agribusiness and SME Development Plan, including the State’s 5-Cassava Development Plan targeted at reducing dependency on oil and gas revenues and unemployment. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in Agriculture and Agricultural Economics respectively.

Godwin Ndubuisi Asumugha

Organization: NRCRI
Title: Agricultural Economist
Godwin Asumugha is trained as Agricultural Economist. He was a Graduate Research Fellow in IITA, Ibadan from 1997 to 1998. He has been a Research Scientist at National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Nigeria since 1988 as Research Officer II and rose to the position of Director of Research & Extension in 2015. He is currently leading the NRCRI WAAPP Project in Nigeria, IFAD-IITA HQCF Value Chain Project in NRCRI and the BMGF/IITA CMS Project in Southern Nigeria. Godwin is a Member of International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) and currently the Deputy Editor of ISTRC-AB, Agricultural Society of Nigeria (Until 2010, the Editor-In-Chief & Ist Vice President, 2011), International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE). He has 120 publications of which 60 are journals (local & International).

Processor Led Model

Mark Nelson

Organization: Context Global Development
Title: Managing Director
Mark Nelson is deeply committed to the advancement of agriculture, making it more productive, efficient and sustainable around the globe. Raised on his family’s farming operation and having spent his lifetime working in agriculture, Mark’s most recent work with Context spans 14 years of leading strategy and management consulting engagements for industry-leading agriculture, biotechnology and food companies, and governmental and non-governmental agencies and institutions. He has been central in shaping Context’s international agricultural development practice through grant-making strategy, program design and monitoring and evaluation engagements with prominent foundations and agencies including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Mark’s proven leadership in guiding large-scale client engagements across diverse geographies consistently produces on-time, in-budget results.

Will Rogers

Organization: Context Global Development
Title: Senior Program Manager
Will is a Senior Program Manager with Context Global Development, currently managing agricultural development programs in several countries across West Africa, and is based full-time in Accra, Ghana. Will has over 8 years of experience in strategy and management consulting where he has developed customized strategic intelligence solutions and managed numerous international research projects for Fortune 500 clients in the agricultural, industrial, technology and consumer goods sectors. His key areas of focus include global expansion strategy development, particularly for companies and products in new operational geographies; new technology commercialization; distribution and path-to-market design innovation; and international project management, both in-country and via virtual team leadership. He brings creative and consultative approaches to intelligence gathering and strategy design, drawing upon experience as a project director for ORC International, and as a consultant for the Context Network. Will holds an MBA from Hult International Business School, Shanghai, and a BS in Commerce with concentrations in International Business and Management from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. He has lived and worked in both developed and emerging markets, specifically Western Europe, China, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.