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‘Vibrant extension service system is inevitable for food security’

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Adewole

Mr Adewole Fatokun is Manager, Technical and Regulatory, Agricultural Solutions of BSF West Africa. He spoke with FEMI IBIROGBA in Zaria, Kaduna State, on inevitability of extension services to food security and other industry issues during a workshop on prevention of grain contamination recently.

In Nigeria, maize production records a deficit of 4 million metric tonnes, but with the closure of some land borders and the forex restriction policy on the importation of food and raw materials, how do we close the gap?
We observe and teach good agricultural practices and the use of pesticides when required. I have noticed in my 30 years in the agricultural sector that output in Nigeria is very low. For maize yield, it is the function of rainfalls and the function of plant population and the variety. There is a maximum capacity each plant can take. If an optimal plant population is not maintained, a less yield will be recorded.

How many stands of maize should be cultivated in a farmland?
Ideally, it should be no fewer than 50,000 stands per hectare. Also, there is the need for weed control because maize is known to be very unsuccessful with weed competition, especially in the first to the third weeks of its germination.

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Also the rise of diseases should be a major concern with the infestation of the Fall Army Worm which can reduce the produce to zero. This largely depends on the age and level at which the infestation comes. Hence, the need to preach good agricultural practices such as land preparation and planting the right seeds.

BASF has developed a solution against Fall Army Worms. Has it been proven effective and reliable by farmers for the protection of their maize?
The product is not only efficient but also reliable. It is also very good for resistance management as part of its composites are two active ingredients, such that when the infestation is noticed, the product is preferably sprayed and left till after two weeks if need arises for a second application.

Given that extension services will encourage good agricultural practices among farmers which will bring about good yields, how will you evaluate the state of extension services in Nigeria?
Now, funds are no longer at their disposal, unlike before. No one is ready to pay the extension service agents. They only solicit volunteers to help educate the farmers. If we must revolutionise agriculture and get rid of food contamination and insecurity, then important measures should be put in place.

What can be the done to improve the situation?
The government should fund and reform the agricultural extension services so as to encourage innovations like agricultural technologies that will be explained to the farmers as well as monitoring, evaluation and reevaluation.

Should the closure of the borders be seen as a stimulant to agricultural revolution in Nigeria?
I can attest that the policy will stimulate and force growth in the agricultural sector. In the early 80s, Nigeria allowed the importation of maize, there was an increase in the tariff owing to the ban on poultry products and poultry feeds, this stimulated maize production. This skyrocketed the production from less than 2.0 tonnes per hectare to about 3.5 or 4.0 tonnes per hectare.

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