Dearth of extension agents hampering diversification
Farmers have raised the alarm over the deplorable state of extension services in the country, manifesting in the ratio of one Extension Agent (EA) to 10,000 farmers (1:10,000).
They are angered that the EAs that are supposed to serve as platform for linking new innovations from research institutes to the farmers are no longer considered important unit in the agriculture value chain designed to diversify the national economy.
The United Nation Food and Agricultural Organisations (FAO) had recommended one EA to 800 (1:800) farmers and had even increased it to 1:1,000, but over the years Nigeria has been unable to meet up.
At a stakeholders sensitisation workshop on the revitalisation of agricultural extension in Nigeria, held in Abuja, the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Prof. Ikane Emmanuel, lamented that extension service in the country is in a sad state, saying because the structure is at the state level, there is little the Federal Government can do to make the states do the right thing.
He pointed out that the extension service, also known as Agriculture Development Programme (ADP) has been scrapped in some states like Oyo, while a state like Bayelsa has only two extension agents in the entire state.
To change the face of the extension service, Ikane said the National Extension Service Policy has been designed and currently at the National Assembly, saying inputs from the workshop will also be included in the policy document.
He said: “Extension services were being carried out in the country without principles. The aim of the workshop was to feed the Nigerian Extension Service Policy currently at the National Assembly.”
He disclosed the Federal Government has perfected the plan to train about 75,000 to 110,000 EAs, adding that they are already designing the protocol for the training. “Our plan is to have a one-stop shop that a farmer can come in and whatever their problem is would be addressed.”
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, identified the collapse of the extension services as a factor hampering food sufficiency, as most farmers still adopt archaic method of cultivating crops.
He stressed that the employment of responsible extension workers who would educate rural farmers on how to adopt modern means, and address issues of poor yield, fake seeds supply and unhygienic preservation methods would be addressed.
Represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agricultural Extension, Satumari Kudla, he said the revitalisation of the extension services would boost government’s efforts.
“I wish to set the agenda for the revitalisation for the nation’s extension system by putting these issues to robust discussion, which is redefining the roles and responsibilities of the three tiers of government in agriculture extension services and establishment of evaluation strategies, and possible reprisal for actors that failed in their responsibilities to ensure accountability and commitment.”
The Minister recommended that incentives that will foster, encourage and mobilise farmers around cluster farming should be put in place, adding that innovation that will encourage aggressive training and necessary manpower and ensuring professionalism in the extension service delivery, should be prioritised.
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