Extension Agents working under the Justice Development and Peace Movement (JDPM), Oyo and the University of Agriculture Makurdi (UAM) have concluded plans to resume training activities previously halted by the COVID-19 lockdown, under a cautious regime.
The training activities will adhere strictly to the rules on physical distancing set by the country on COVID 19, coordinators from JPDM and UAM have said.
The two organisations are partnering the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for the dissemination of the AKILIMO decision support tools to farmers in Oyo State and Benue State.
AKILIMO is an all-in-one agronomic advisory tool developed by ACAI that supports cassava growers with knowledge and recommendations to intensify their cassava-based cropping systems.
Both JDPM and UAM commenced full dissemination activities in 2019 and have so far covered dozens of rural communities and local government areas in the two states; gathering farmers at their homes, village squares, under trees, community schools, and churches. Using battery-powered mobile projectors, videos, and other paper-based tools developed by ACAI, the organisations (through their extension networks) are teaching farmers best weed control methods, safe use of herbicides, and best planting practices in cassava-maize farming systems.
The training activities were however, halted over a month ago following the outbreak of COVID-19 and lockdown measures put in place by the state and Federal Government to curtail the pandemic.
But at separate meetings held recently at the JDPM office in Oyo and another in Benue, the extension agents resolved to resume training under COVID 19 regulations set by the government to ensure that cassava farmers were armed with best-bet weed control and planting techniques, as the farming season begins.
IITA, and ACAI Digital Extension and Advisory Services Specialist, Godwin Atser, who was present at the meeting in Oyo, commended the extension agents for the work done before the lockdown. He stated: “recommencing the training at this time is a humanitarian gesture to farmers to enable them to avert hunger and cushion the effects of the looming economic recession.”
The trainings will be conducted based on government COVID-19 safety rules and regulations, which allow a limited number of persons to gather, while maintaining a physical distance.
Other safety measures harped upon at the meeting included the proper washing of hands and compulsory use of facemasks by trainers and trainees at every training event. Farmer Field days, which are to come up soon, will also be conducted under COVID 19 rules.
Godwin, who expressed his appreciation to the extension agents for their hard work and cooperation towards the success of the ACAI project, stressed the need to follow up on farmers who have been trained and have adopted the intervention in order to serve as points of reference to others.