As a way of reducing cost of extension service delivery across the country, the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) must be widely adopted by all the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) and reduce physical visit to farmers.
Executive Director, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Prof. Mohammed Khalid Othman, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview with The Guardian said there must be a change of strategy in extension delivery services.
“On this aspect, NAERLS is leading in the use of ICT to deliver extension services directly to farmers. We have completed National Farmers Helpline Center, a telephone based platform for reaching out to farmers individually and collectively.”
He also called for the reorientation of farmers to take farming as a business, requiring careful planning and investment. “Farmers have to acquire knowledge to use modern technologies and practices to improve their productivity, increase yield per area, higher income and higher profit margin. Farmers have to be taught to produce according to international standard so that the prices of their produce can attract international prices. This will attract more people into agriculture and thus create wealth massively for the nation, as well as create employment opportunities.”
On the demand for more Extension Agents to bridge the gap between farmers and filed officers, Othman said: “We don’t need high number of extension personnel but highly qualitative personnel with necessary infrastructure (internet service, communication gadgets, social media platforms, etc) and right motivation to be very effective.
“While it is desirable to have adequate and quality manpower for effective extension service delivery, the number of personnel required per number of farmers 10 years ago is higher than what is required today because of possible use of e-Extension model.
“Capacity development through training and retraining of farmers, processors, marketers and up-takers is a critical area that state and Federal Government should focus and properly fund. This way, agricultural productivity will be enhanced without necessarily bridging the gap to achieve the ratio of one EA to 1000 farmers.”
Othman said it is very difficult to give exact number of farmers and EAs in the country, saying from the result of 2018 Agricultural Performance Survey (APS) conducted by NAERLS, presented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh during the World Food Day celebration on October 16, 2018, many states did not provide data on their farmers and extension agents.
“However, among the states that provided information on farm families in 2018, Kano State recorded the highest number of farm families, with 1,620,000 followed by Bauchi (987,925), Katsina (965,536), Niger reported 816,575 farm families, and Akwa-Ibom State had 685,095 farm families, while Bayelsa had the least number of farm families with 95,465.
“In the same 2018 APS report, Kano State recorded the highest number of Village Extension Agents (VEA) of 1,118; Plateau State recorded 467 VEAs; Ebonyi State recorded 103 VEAs, while Benue and Lagos States recorded 27 and six VEAs respectively. The number of VEAs is grossly inadequate to deliver extension delivery service to farmers. Most of the states have not conducted agricultural resources survey in the last 20 years.”