ABUJA – National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) in collaboration with Borno State Government, has trained and empowered about 269 soil doctors, agricultural extension service workers to carry out their field operations in the State to boost agricultural productivity and ensure food security.
The 269 soil doctors and agricultural extension service workers were awarded with certificates and also given test kits to facilitate their field operations, having completed their two weeks intensive training exercise in Maiduguri, the State capital.
Speaking on the occasion of the presentation of certificates and test kits to the trainees, Prince Paul Ikonne, Excecutive Secretary of NALDA, said the entry of the trainees into the Nigerian agricultural system would address issues associated with soil testing and food quality.
He said: “ It is expected that the injection of soil doctors and extension service providers into the Nigerian agricultural system will correct the anomalies of non-soil testing so that farming becomes healthy for the environment, humanity and quality food production”.
The trainees comprising graduates with agriculture and science related educational backgrounds and corps members, were trained in areas of soil sample collection, soil testing as well as extension services.
Also speaking, Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, commended NALDA for giving the State an opportunity, adding that was the first time the head of a Federal agency would approach him with such intervention since he assumed office.
According to him,“ it is the first in the history of my administration in Borno State that a Chief Excecutive of a Federal agency called and told me, Mr Governor, I am in receipt of funding from the Federal Government , come so that we can work together “.
He said no other state has Borno’s agricultural potentials, adding that water is not a limiting factor, as irrigation engineers are being continually called upon to design structures that could handle the natural supply of water.
Zulum said he would keep working towards improving the food supply and agriculture value chain to ensure the State and Nigeria attain food security.
The governor said the state has a total land mass of over 76,000 square kilometers with over 70 per cent of arable land.
He said, “This effort by NALDA and her development partners by training and providing well designed soil testing kits to youths shall provide effective and adequate number of experts on soil, to our farmers in time, for Borno to engage in scientific cultivation which should be anchored on sustainable development”.
The governor highlighted some of the problems faced in the state’s agriculture system to include lack of adequate extension workers, poor funding, inadequate logistics services for field staff.
While congratulating the trainees, he urged farmers in the state to cooperate with them to make the intervention a huge success.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who was at the event with other members of the National Assembly, said the choice of Borno to kickstart the training was very apt and commended the state government for taking advantage of the opportunity offered through the programme by engaging with NALDA on the project.
Lawan said “ Borno state alone can feed Nigeria, I know for certain. I was part of this State before Yobe was created and I know the Chad Basin’s projects and programmes alone could produce enough food for this country, so the choice of Borno State for this particular project is apt and in fact in the right direction and the right thing to do.”
Lawan said the initiative by NALDA would address issues of export rejects of Nigerian farm produce,which has reduced their competitiveness because of high residue content.
He said: “ The soil doctors are going to be real doctors for the soil, our practice has been to apply fertilizers without knowing what type of fertilizers are required or needed on our farms.
“With the soil doctors, we should have a clear analysis of what we need in terms of fertilizers and other necessary inputs into our soil”.
The Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Major-General Shuaibu Ibrahim, thanked the Federal Government for resuscitating NALDA while expressing optimism in the agency’s ability to contribute to agricultural development.
He lauded the training, saying it is coming at a time when the government is pursuing a deliberate policy of economic diversification through harnessing the agricultural potentials.
Ibrahim said “ No doubt the activities of the young men and women who are concluding their training today will go a long way in enhancing agricultural productivity and profitability in Nigeria”.
He revealed that the NYSC is collaborating with NALDA to enable corps members to benefit from the National Young Farmers Scheme(NYFS).
The NYSC Director General said the agency was reviving its agricultural programmes in a bid to complement the Federal government’s efforts to guarantee food security.
He added that the Corps mega farms are operational in Bauchi, Kebbi and Oyo states, adding that with the return of the NYSC farm in Ebonyi State, its rice cultivation would be extended through the 2021 farming season.
In his remarks, the Coordinator of NALDA in Borno State, Talba Mustapha, said out of the 269 graduates with science related backgrounds trained, 69 were corps members.
He said the graduating trainees were the first of a targeted 1,000 to be trained, and another 200 would be engaged in the next batch.
“ NALDA in collaboration with the state government will observe the trainees, they will liaise with NALDA so that they can go to farms in parts of the state to inspect soils, so the farmers can know what types of crops they can plant.
“They will not be sent to insecurity prone areas but places where the farms can easily be accessed”, Mustapha said.
One of the trainees , Usman Alhaji-mala, said he and his colleagues were empowered with knowledge on soil fertility, the soil’s nutrient content and how farmers can identify needed nutrient requirements on their farms , how they can improve on the nutrients as well as the most suitable crops for their farmlands.