In the midst of critical economic instability presently been experienced in the nation, Federal Government of Nigeria has reportedly stamped its presence in the labour market by creating employment opportunities for graduates in the flourishing field of agriculture as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh confirmed that 130, 000 graduates have already been hired to offer extension services to farmers all over the country.
The minister who was represented by the Director of Extension Service Department in the ministry, Mrs Karima Babangida disclosed to the press that the youths were employed under the Social Investment Programme of the FG.
She made this known at the 24th Agricultural Extension Society of Nigeria (AESON) Annual National Conference in Abuja earlier in the week.
Going by the information divulged by Babangida, improvement is needed in the extension service needs so as to strengthen the government’s agricultural development process, especially in the commodity value chains.
“This is where extension services are required, in addition to strengthening the capacity of farmers to boost their productivity.
He further stated in optimism that the graduates were trained and would soon be given tablets to effectively deliver on their call of duty.
“Extension service has a crucial role to play in reviving the agricultural sector in the country.
“Our country has enormous potential for agricultural development.
“Besides production, support is also given to other value chains with processing equipment to farmers to add value to their produce and make more money.
“Farmers’ knowledge and skills need to be improved and enhanced to improve their commodities across all the value chains to facilitate improved agricultural productivity in the country,” he said.
The conference with the theme: “Enhancing Agricultural Extension Capability in Agro-Raw Materials Value Addition, brought together all practitioners of agricultural extension in Nigeria to brainstorm on challenges facing the sub-sector.
Thereafter, Ogbeh gave his assurance by pledging that the ministry is ever ready to give its full backing wherever and whenever it is required to make agriculture take its rightful place in the country to enhance the competiveness of its agricultural products around the world.
Meanwhile, Director General of the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) Prof. Hussaini Ibrahim, revealed that there had been a decline in the country’s extension which he believes is leading to low productivity.
He maintained that to actualise availability of value added agricultural raw materials for industrial utilisation, the need for effective innovative approaches to production, processing and marketing that would ensure adequate increase in value must be put in place.
“The knowledge transfer by the agricultural extension workers in the early 60s contributed to increase in agricultural productivity in pre and post independent era.
“These led to the development of cocoa dome in southwest, cotton and palm produce in the southeast.
“But the decline in the agricultural productivity in the country from 2,000 could be linked to the unavailability of extension services to assist farmers with new innovation to boost productivity.
“Agricultural extension plays a pivotal role in the value chain development of agro-raw materials from production by farmers and processing by industries down to marketing and beyond,” he said.
He also urged the Federal Government to bring back the glory of the extension service to enhance effective value chain development of agricultural commodities within the country.