By: Bamidele Fashube
MOHAMMAD Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has said from the 75, 000 extension workforce target, set by the ministry, about 45, 000 farm extension workers have been engaged in a partnership with the private sector.
The Minister disclosed this at an event to flag-off training for extension agents across the 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The extension workers often bridge training gaps among rural farmers. They help in the transfer of new skills, vital information on better farming methods to the small and middle-scale farmers in far-reaching communities in the country.
But, Nanono, during the event attributed the decreasing population of extension workers to insufficient funds, reduced manpower as well as lack of interest. These, he said were responsible for multiple challenges confronting the sector.
His words: “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,” the minister added.
He further advised on the wrong use of farm chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides. This, he said would increase Nigeria’s chances of exporting farm produce abroad.
It could be recalled that the European Union (EU) in 2015 banned Nigeria from exporting its farm produce to the union, due to the high chemical level in the agric produce, especially beans.