IITA Ibadan - A nature lovers paradise
It is most likely not your first time hearing the abbreviations 'IITA', but you might still be oblivious as to what goes on within the institution's compound. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is an award winning, research for development institute with the main purpose of bettering lives through agriculture. They do this by enhancing food and nutrition security, providing employment opportunities and protecting the integrity of Nigeria's natural resources. They have branches all over Nigeria and Africa but Ibadan is the headquarters.
The non-profit organization has been around for a while, 1967 to be exact. The idea was championed by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations who took interest in improving the local farming systems, breed more resistant crop varieties and collect helpful data about plants in the Africa. This initiative has gone a long way in improving the food security and providing a source of livelihood to countless people across the continent.
Over the decades it has become a fantastic destination for relaxing and enjoying nature's soothing touch. The facility sits on 1,000 hectares of land and 300 of those hectares is protected forest reserve - home to indigenous species of plant life, insects and birds.
It's a research facility, so it's important to have untouched nature that you can collect data from and because they are passionate about teaching, they organize activities like nature walks for you to learn about all kinds of plants and animals. You can even join the local bird watching community who organize groups to come and photograph rare birds such as the Ibadan Malimbe.
The IITA lake is perhaps my favorite part of spending time at the facility. It's a man made lake and staff and visitors come here to fish and spend time in their boats and kayaks. The lake is quite a gem, it is incredibly peaceful and serene so it's the perfect place to relax and drink something cold while water birds and other life go about their business. Visits here make you think about the pockets of nature in our everyday life and about how much more we could be doing when it comes to recycling and waste disposal. Anyway, make sure you dispose your waste in the designated areas to keep our spaces clean.
Part of what makes the lake fantastic is the lovely sunsets and your visit is not complete without a sunset photograph. It's really the little things that matter.
If you are lucky enough, you can even tour some other parts of the campus such as the nursery. Here they propagate thousands of unique plants and trees, so if you are looking for a souvenir, why not plant a tree? IITA is your best source for a wide range of seeds and seedlings, you just need to ask the staff for what you are interested in. The staff here are really great, and you learn a lot from interacting with them. They are great resources for knowledge and they do their best to make guests comfortable.
Apart from the natural attractions, IITA's urban planning is quite immaculate. The big, wide roads, functional yet stunning architecture and serene environments make one dream of what's possible in Nigeria on a larger scale. People come here to cycle around the campus which is one of the more popular activities. You can bring your bicycles but there a few available for rent at IITA. I quite enjoy seeing how the structures are built into the landscape, at one with nature. Very picturesque and very conducive for exercising.
In the past, gaining access to IITA was a tedious task and one could only go in for business or if you knew someone who lived there but recently there has been a shift. They are/have transitioning/transitioned into a hybrid institution and now, guests can book nights and enjoy the accommodations as well. The rooms are nice and detailed, a bit vintage but clean and comfortable. You can see what the accommodations look like HERE, as well as the booking information.
Meals are available at the I-House and breakfast is a part of some room packages. Their breakfast buffet is nice, the rest of the food is a 6.5/10 so there's room for improvement. Their pizza is fantastic however and on Friday's they have pizza night. They also have suya nights at the Cappa Bar (golf course) every Wednesday. As an extra food option, there is a restaurant opposite the IITA gate called Chicken Chaos, simple.
The past few years have shown that IITA has enormous potential as a hotspot for tourists and holiday seekers - a lot of who come from outside the state. It's proximity to the Moniya train station makes it easy to access for out of state indigenes so it will be fantastic to see how they use this to their advantage. I would love to see them grow from strength to strength by sharing their space and their knowledge with the public, they're truly a fantastic resource.