The National Agriculture Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) is test-running e-extension and e-library services in an effort to boost agriculture and ensure food security.
An official of NAERLS Ismail Olawale, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Saturday.
Olawale, the Team Leader in charge of Traditional Media, E-Extension Department of NAERLS, said that test-running of the e-extension followed the recent creation of National Farmers Helpline (NFHL).
NAN reports that NFHL was launched in January by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe, to provide adequate extension services to farmers across the country.
“Extension services in Nigeria, at present, are facing series of problems. What extension practitioners are doing now is to augment their services using e-extension.
“E-extension involves giving farmers extension services through the internet or social media platforms and various media,’’ Olawale told NAN.
He said the extension officers currently in service were getting old.
Sixty-seven to 70 per cent of extension officers are old people, and many of them have not been exposed to modern ways of extension in the last 10 to 15 years.
“Another problem is lack of proper mobilisation; extension demands mobilisation technology.
“Extension officers need to move to rural areas; in some cases, they need motorbikes, motorboats and even bicycles. There are some places in this country that are very hard to reach.
“Extension service workers have not been able to reach some areas for years due to these challenges besides insecurity,” Olawale said.
He told NAN that establishment of the NFHL would go a long way to tackle the problems of extension services.
“NAERLS is relying on e-extension by developing farmers’ helpline centre which was inaugurated in January.
“The aim is to have a data base for agriculture information that can be accessed by farmers across the country.
“We are currently trying to test-run the helpline; we want to link up with major telephone network providers in Nigeria.
“It is going to be a free code where farmers can call without paying and then link up with experts in the areas of their challenges,” he said.
He said that, with the helpline, extension services would be given to farmers across the country without the presence of extension officers.
“If a farmer wants information on agronomy or cattle rearing or how to harvest or plant a hybrid of cassava, the farmer will be linked up with the expert to get the information he or she wants without the physical presence of the officer.
“However, where such expertise or information is not available, the farmer’s detail will be taken and then we try to get back to that farmer,” Olawale said.
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He added that NAERLS had made provision for educated farmers to subscribe to e-library where they would be exposed to information on the latest farming techniques.
“Educated farmers can access our e-library which is a domiciliary of agriculture information from agriculture research institutes around the world on improved agricultural practices.
“However, the educated farmer will have to make a request to the NAERLS, because the e-library is a database that is not linked to the internet.
“The farmers or stakeholders do not have to pay any sum for the services. However after the test-running, farmers may pay 100 monthly for the services,” he said.