The Federal Government, Monday, disclosed moves to increase agricultural extension workforce to 75, 000 along various value chains towards efficient food production and self-sufficiency in line with global best practices.
This was made known by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Nanono, while flagging off the training of extension agents in the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory, FCT, holding in all the 37 Headquarters of the States Agricultural Development Projects, ADPs.
Nanono who expressed worry over the declining fortunes of the agricultural extension system said was traceable to decreased funding, policy changes, reduced man-power and lack of interest of young people in agricultural entrepreneurship, which had adversely affected food production and have exposed the country to the dangers of unemployment, youth restiveness, and economic instability.
He also explained that the training is one of several strategies planned by his Ministry to halt the drift in the agricultural extension system with aim of pursuing the “revitalization agenda of the Nigerian economy by the Federal Government.”
He said: “At the inception of this administration, a special committee on the ‘Revitalization 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 to deliver with efficiency.
“We are taking off in Abuja and all other states in the federation will do the same and they will continue until we achieve our target of 75,000 extension workers over a period of three years.
“We are already at 45,000 extension workers both government and the private. And I think our target is achievable. Most people especially youths take agriculture as not important but you eat and must remember that somebody is producing these crops and we must enable him with agriculture facilities.
“So it is very important that the pioneers in the extension service training take this training seriously and strive also to become farmers, you will be extension workers but in the process become farmers.
“Agriculture is now becoming more attractive and youth makes up about 75 per cent of our population and therefore if we are going to move forward the youth must make sacrifices and the government must empower youth to go into agriculture and that’s what we are set to do.
“So I am hoping that this is the beginning of a new era in the development of extension service in this country.”
However, the Minister acknowledged and said that “Our problem is that the people are poor at heart, disorganized and being disturbed by politics. We need to organize ourselves and be focused to salvage agriculture in this country to develop this nation.
He also lamented the rejection of beans from Nigeria by the European Union who banned the commodity from entering member countries as a result of chemicals applied in the preservation of the commodity.
“Over the last two years have been banned from the export of red beans which is a very good market because the level of application of chemicals in our crop which is considered high for human consumption and why because we have no extension workers to guide the farmers”, he stated.