The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development says it has commenced the training of 1,110 extension agents in 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisations (FAO) had recommended one-extension agents to 800 farmers (1:800) and had even increased it to 1:1,000, unfortunately the country can only boast of one extension worker to 10,000 farmers.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono while flagging-off the training of the first batch of the agents in Abuja, disclosed that 30 people would be trained in each of the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Nanono noted that delivery of agricultural extension is the driver of all agricultural policies and research, without which all efforts in the agricultural ecosystem may not realise its intended goals.
He said over the years, the fortunes of the agricultural extension system have declined majorly due to decreased funding, policy changes, reduced man-power and lack of interest of young people in agricultural entrepreneurship.
According to him, the situation has affected food production, exposing the country to the dangers of unemployment, youth restiveness and economic instability.
“Training is one of several strategies planned by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to halt the drift in the agricultural extension system with the aim of pursuing the revitalisation agenda of the economy by the Federal Government.
“At the inception of this administration, a Special Committee on the Revitalisation of Agricultural Extension Service in Nigeria was constituted to, among others, recommend appropriate institutional structures, arrangements and capacity building for the delivery of effective and efficient pluralistic agricultural extension and advisory services in Nigeria using globally acceptable approaches and platforms.
“One of the key recommendations was to build the capacity of youth and existing practitioners in agricultural extension delivery system, exposing and equipping them with best global practices and tools to enable them deliver with efficiency.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. Ernest Umakhihe said the training is key activity in the implementation of the Federal Government’s policy on revitalisation of agricultural extension delivery in Nigeria.
Represented by Director, Department of Agriculture Extension, Engr. Frank Kudla, the Permanent Secretary said the drive by the present administration to revitalise agricultural extension services in Nigeria is to help farmers and value chain actors to make effective use of productive forces and advances in information technology to improve the livelihoods of rural populations, create jobs and promote sustainable agricultural and socio-economic development of the country.
“The only way this can be achieved is to re-position the ADP system through training, provision of equipment and tools as well as funding to carry out their primary mandate and responsibilities to farmers.
“The current situation posed by COVID-19 has brought new challenges to food supply and youth employment. It is predictable that an effective ADP system will disseminate and transfer the needed technologies for productivity enhancement and rural income generation for youth and farmers, consequently, stemming the challenges of food supply and employment,” he added.