Why farmers ignore new farm technologies, improved varieties’
How will you, on behalf of the Nigerian Research Council of Nigeria, evaluate the seed industry in Nigeria?
The National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) is no doubt one of the biggest players in the seed sector in Africa and particularly the biggest in West Africa.
The research system has a prominent role because research institutes are the engine of the system for the newly developed crop varieties mostly come from the research institutes and we have about 15 of them which have mandates on different commodities.
So, all the seeds that circulate in the system are basically developed by the research institutes and therefore, because of their basic role in producing primary breeding seeds and secondarily, the foundation seeds, they are very important stakeholders if we must address the challenges of the seed.
Now it is also noticed that grains are packaged as seeds for farmers, therefore impacting negatively on productivity per hectare. How are you helping to tackle this problem?
The problem of seed adulteration comes with the level of demand. The law of demand and supply cannot be altered. In a situation where the demand is so high and supply is very low, you are bound to find shortcuts by people who want to make money unscrupulously. But as a system, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria is ensuring that the seed that is developed, which is the seed from our research institute, remains true to type. When I say true to type, I mean it is a seed that when we say ‘this is variety A,’ it will definitely produce the characteristics and the yield expectation from variety A.
So, our effort is to make sure that our breeders still work in the research institutes and new varieties are developed which will maintain their integrity and ability to perform very well in the Nigerian ecologies. We must assist the seed council and companies. Sometimes, our research institutes enter into a partnership with seed companies to develop varieties. So, we have a critical role in ensuring that the early generation seeds, basically breeder and foundation seeds, are kept pure and we have to maintain whatever variety we have released.
That reminds us of the National Varietal Release Committee. Now they have released a good number of improved varieties, but farmers are not adopting them. What is the problem?
Yes. You cannot blame the National Variety Release Committee, which I am a member of the Natural Agricultural Research Council for the poor adoption of new varieties. Our primary responsibilities are to develop varieties at the research institutes, submit to the National Variety Release Committee who assess them, register and release them for commercialisation.
The gap has been created as a result of the weakening of the agricultural development projects in the state, which means extension has become very weak, and because extension is weak, it becomes difficult for technologies to reach the farmers easily. But at our end, we think it is critical to extending the technologies to farmers. So, we have introduced what we call adopted villages and adopted schools where our research institutes will adopt at least two to five villages very close to their vicinity, where all technologies generated within the agricultural institutes can be tried together with these communities and schools.
How will you evaluate the success of these adopted villages in disseminating new agricultural technologies and varieties to farmers?
These are excellent tools, but unfortunately, because Nigeria is a large country, and the number of these points are very limited, it is not making the expected significant impact. So, we need to be able to strengthen our agricultural extension systems, and I think there is a need for research and extension to work together in getting these released varieties.
We know the agricultural extension system is dead completely. What is the council doing to help revive that critical sector and close the gap between technology development and dissemination and adoption?
It is not proper to conclude that they are completely dead. The issue of extension, because it is at the state level, differs from one state to the other. Certain states who still have very much interest in agriculture still have viable extension systems and based on that, they are still able to get technologies disseminated to the farmers, but we know that many states who do not care much about agriculture are very weak in extension systems. And so, adopting new technologies in these states has become hampered.
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