Hon. Minister of Agriculture

Audu Innocent Ogbeh was born in Otukpo on July 28, 1947 to the family of late Pa Ogbeh Ejembi and Madam Egbi Ogbeh (nee Odinya), both of Efugo-Otukpa in the present day Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State.

His late father was a renowned farmer, community leader and disciplinarian while his mother was a commodities trader who travelled through all major markets of the central and south-eastern states of Nigeria in the course of her business.

In the following year, he gained admission at the elite Kings College in Lagos, continuing his studies for the Higher School Certificate (HSC). He obtained the HSC at the end of 1968 and proceeded the following year to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Between 1969 and 1972, Mr Ogbeh studied for his undergraduate certificate, which he obtained at the end of his time there. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French, he proceeded in 1973 to the University of Toulouse in France. He graduated in 1974 with a Masters of Letters degree in French literature.

Olanrewaju Howells

Olanrewaju Howells is the Group Managing Director of VARDEN with over 15 years experience as an entrepreneur. His wealth of experience spans Hospitality, Entertainment, Real Estate, Agriculture and Mass Media. He ventured into agriculture in 2014, setting up Varden Farms Scheme 1, and in 2016 Varden Farms and Resort pioneered the developing trend of commercial luxury Farm Houses in Nigeria. In 2015, he established Beyond Building Investment Limited, a premium real estate company, redefining Asset Management, Real Estate Investment Culture. Lanre seat on the board of several profit and Non Profit organizations both within and outside Nigeria. He is a result driven, self-motivated and resourceful entrepreneur with a proven ability to develop, strengthen businesses and management team in order to maximize company profitability and efficiency. The Company has grown exponentially into a group within 4 years of operation, consisting of Varden Farms, Varden Park & Resort, Varden Foods and VCAMS (The Agro Cooperative Society). Varden group today, has over one hundred employees  and still evolving with the crusade for organic and affordable food for Nigerians.

Michael Keller

Michael Keller was appointed Secretary General of the International Seed Federation in June 2014.

Michael, a German national, lived and worked in Paris for 18 years before relocating to Switzerland to join the International Seed Federation in Nyon.

Having graduated from the Universities of Manheim and Bonn where he completed a Law State examination, Michael pursued post-graduate studies at the Paris-Sorbonne University.

In 1999 Michael joined the French Senate in Paris as a Parliamentary Advisor and moved to the Mayor’s Association of France where, as Head of European and International Affairs, he represented his constituents’ interests at European level.

Between 2008 and 2014 Michael held the post of Director of Regulatory and Public Affairs at DuPont Pioneer in France. During the same period Michael was a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee at the Union Française des Semenciers (UFS) and Chairman of the UFS Regulation and Innovation Commission.

Andreas Wais

Secretary General at ISTA

In 2006 he was appointed to deputy head of Business Unit Agro. 2007 the Business Units Agro and Chemicals were combined into one under his leadership making use of the risk assessment experience in Agro for the upcoming REACH. Beginning of 2008 a new Business Unit structure was implemented due to the acquisition of SPL by Harlan/RCC. Dr. Wais was then promoted to Global Director Business Unit AgroChemicals and Biocides. From June 2011 he changed his reponsibility to the position of General Manager of Global Registration and Strategic Consulting.
In March 2012 Dr. Wais left Harlan with most of the Agro regulatory team and became Managing Director of Eurofins Regulatory AG in Switzerland.
From June 2017 appointed Secretary General of ISTA.

INDIA High Commissioner

Mr. B.N. Reddy joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1993, and has served in Indian Missions in Indonesia (1995-98), Lao PDR (1998-2001), New York (Permanent Mission of India) (2005-2008), Malaysia (2008-2011) and Geneva (as the DPR in Permanent Mission of India) (2013-16). He has served in the Ministry of External Affairs in the Administration Division and subsequently as the Director/Joint Secretary to the External Affairs Minister.

Mr. Reddy has learnt Bahasa Indonesia at the University of Indonesia (UI) during his posting to Indonesia in 1995. Mr. Reddy has Master’s Degree in Technology from IIT, Bombay and Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani. Prior to joining the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Reddy also served with TELCO (now Tata Motors) and also in the Indian Engineering Service (IES).

Ido Verhagen

Ido Verhagen is the executive director of the Access to Seeds Index. Since its start in 2013, the Index has grown out to a unique resource for information on how the seed industry is supporting smallholder farmer productivity, one of the main targets on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Agenda. The 2019 Index includes an evaluation of 60 seed companies across 65 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Prior to starting up the Access to Seeds Index, Ido worked as a sustainability advisor for Dutch multinationals like Philips, Heineken and KLM.


Mr. Minh was appointed Director of Plant Variety Protection Office on December 1, 2015, having previously held the role of Examiner on PVP since 2004.

From 1983 to 2004 he worked for National Center for Plant Variety Evaluation and Seed Certification (NCVESC) just after graduated from Agriculture University No2 in Vietnam. In 2004 he moved to Plant Variety Protection Office of Vietnam (PVPO) when PVPO is established and has been working there as Examiner until became Vice – Director from June 2015 then Director of PVPO on 1st December, 2015.

In the period of 2004 to 2011, he used to attend the training courses on Plant Variety Protection under UPOV Convention in Japan (2004), the Netherlands (2007), United State of America (2005 and 2008) and in UPOV (2011).

He received MS Degree in 1998 then PhD degree in 2004 on Plant Breeding and Selection of tomato at Vietnam Agriculture Academy Science (VAAS). 

Csaba Gaspar

Programme manager – OECD Seed Schemes & the OECD Forest Seed and Plant Scheme

Csaba Gaspar studied Horticulture and Biotechnology at the Corvinus University of Budapest in Hungary. He started his career as a food and phytosanitary inspector in the Hungarian Food-Chain Safety Office where he did certification inspections and quality control of fruit and vegetables for 5 years. He was also responsible for international relations and represented Hungary at OECD, UN and EU meetings.

He moved to the OECD in 2006 where he first worked as an Agricultural Policy Analyst at the OECD Codes and Schemes Unit for 8 years. He was responsible for the coordination of the OECD certification systems for fruit and vegetables and forest reproductive materials. He is currently the Programme Manager of the OECD Seed Schemes and the OECD Forest Seed and Plant Scheme since 2015.

Csaba served as Chair of the Specialized Section on Dry and Dried Products and Vice-Chair of the Working Party 7 on Agricultural Standards at the United Nations Economic Cooperation for Europe (UNECE) between 2004-2006.


Prof. Sola Ajayi is an experienced agricultural scientist and higher education manager with several years teaching, research, and University management experience. Prof. Sola Ajayi is an experienced agricultural scientist and higher education manager with several years teaching, research, and University management experience.
He obtained B.Agric  (Plant Science) First Class Hons (1991) and M.Phil. (Plant Science) (1997) both from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Dr. sc. agr. (Seed Biology) from Christian Albrechts University, Kiel, Germany (2003). He was awarded the Faculty of Agriculture and Alli Idowu Prizes for being the student with the best overall performance in the final B.Agric. degree examinations and Professor Duncan’s First Prize for being the student with the best project work in the final B.Agric. (Plant Science) degree examinations (1991). He started his career as a Graduate Assistant at Obafemi Awolowo University in 1993 and rose through the ranks to become a Professor in 2010. He was a Research Fellow at the Institute of Crop and Grassland Science, Federal Agricultural Research Centre, Braunschweig Germany (1999-2003), Intermittent Visiting Scientist at Pioneer HiBred, Parndorf, Austria (2000-2001), Postdoctoral Scientist at the Plant Cell Biology Research Unit, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa (2003-2005) and a founding Member of the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network. He has hosted and mentored 4 postdoctoral candidates and supervised more than 20 Master and doctoral students. Prof. Ajayi has more than 50 scientific publications to his credit.
As an expert and acknowledged research leader, he has vast research and industry experience on seed systems, agricultural innovations and enterprise development, research management, agricultural policy dialogue and mentorship of early career researchers (ECRs). His research focus has been on improving crop productivity through seed technologies, genetic resources conservation and enhancement, and the impact of climate change on food security. He is well networked with experts in the agricultural research-for-development fraternity. Among several programmes that he is currently leading are (i) institutional strengthening programmes for the mentorship of early career researchers under the UKAid-funded Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement for sub-Saharan Africa Programme (CIRCLE); (ii) exploring the nexus between agriculture and artisanal mining, and (iii) improving productivity of underutilized plant species for food security.
Prof Ajayi has held several management positions in the University system, mostly at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Until he was appointed as the Director of Academic Planning and Partnerships at the Technical University, he was the Chairman, Faculty of Agriculture Postgraduate Committee /Member, Board of Postgraduate College, OAU (Jan-Jun, 2017). He held several other positions at OAU among which are Member, Strategic Planning Committee for the development of Obafemi Awolowo University’s Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 (2015); Member of the Appointments and Promotion Committee (2015-2017, 2007-2009); University Orator (2015); Member, University Research Committee (2014-2016); Chairman (2014-2016) and Deputy Chairman (2011-2014) of the University Security Committee; Director, University Teaching and Research Farm (2012-2016); and Acting Head, Department of Crop Production and Protection (2006-2008), among several others. In 2017 he received the Green Award from the National Association of Agricultural Students (NAAS, OAU Chapter) as the Most-liked Lecturer in the Department of Crop Production and Protection.
Prof Ajayi has participated in several national and continental agricultural policy dialogues and regularly facilitates national stakeholders’ meetings on seed sector development, improving crop productivity and increasing farmers’ income. He has consulted and managed several agricultural development projects for national, regional and international organizations like the Federal Ministries of Environment and of Agriculture; West and Central African Council for Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Women, German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Winrock International /United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Catholic Relief Services, and several international consulting firms. He speaks Yoruba, English and German and currently learning French.


Hemant Nitturkar

Hemant Nitturkar is an entrepreneur, a business mentor and a tri-sector professional with multi-domain, multi country work experience. Over the past 2 ½ decades, he has worked in agriculture, IT and financial services sectors and in the government, private sector and civil society organisations. He is a two-time recipient of the Governor’s Gold Medals from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad 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.

He strongly feels the world community has a window of maximum 15 years to create an ecosystem that can provide meaningful economic opportunities for the teeming youth, else we face a demographic catastrophe instead of enjoying a demographic dividend.  Hence, he is a strong proponent of the UN SDGs. His personal life mission is to create positive impact in the lives of at least one million families unknown to him.


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) based in International Institute for Tropical Agriculture(IITA), a CGIAR Organisation, based in Ibadan, Nigeria. The project has interventions that contribute towards SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 17.