From: Babatunde Azeez, Abuja
Humanitarian aid organisation, Actionaid Nigeria has scored Nigeria low in the area of providing extension services to farmers across the country.
Surveys carried out by ActionAid Nigeria in selected states depicted the long absence of extension agents in the agricultural sector which many farmers lamented its effects on their out put.
The farmers also called on the Federal Government to be sincere with its fertilizer distribution and sales.
Food and Agriculture Programme Coordinator of ActionAid Nigeria, Mr Azubike Nwokoye, speaking during the dissemination of assessment report of government expenditure on agriculture/community score cards on smallholder farmers’ access to extension services held yesterday in Abuja, he said there is room for the federal government to revamp the extension services.
According to hin, non-operation of the extension services have halted the development of agriculture across the country stressing that the absence of the extension agents is already creating a gap in the industry.
He explained that the activities of the extension agents would have boosted farmers yield, hence, the absence has created a vacuum that needs urgent attention by the federal government in order to avail farmers necessary information, inputs and improved technologies for increased productivity all year round.
Nwokoye cited instances of budgetary allocations, mobility, staff training among others as necessities to enhance extension services and help the agent perform effectively as expected, while stressing that government needs to consider the gap that is covered by the worker which is now stretched to one extension personnel to ten thousand farmers as unwise.
However, he tasked the Federal Government to consider employing trained workers with technical knowhow on how to meet farmers’ needs in the rural areas.
Speaking to the Journalists, Secretary Small Scale Women Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mrs. Chizioke Peace disclosed that the extinction of the extension agents is a curse to agriculture as many of the farmers’ have lost funds, and crops to flooding, pest and diseases, due to the absence of the extension officers who monitor and play advisory roles.
She said the recent flooding experienced in most of the states would have been averted if only the extension agents were on ground.
According to her, the activities of the extension workers were crippled due to the non-challant attitude of the government towards repositioning the sector.
She stated further that agriculture without the extension agents will not work as most farmers are ignorant of most of the technologies they are introduced to.
Mrs Comfort Sunday, a female farmer in the Federal Capital Territory also called on the attention of government over the insincerity displayed on the distribution and sales of fertilizers as against the promises made to the farmers on easy accessibility and affordability, especially through the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme created to aid increase in productivity.
Sunday said that the way the distribution of fertilizer was handled by the federal government, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is capable of discouraging women farmers’ from doing agribusiness, adding that the hike in the price of fertilizer to N9000 as against the promise made by the federal government through its Presidential fertilizer Initiative programme of N5500 is beyond expectation, and is already taking a lot of farmers out of farm.
She further lamented over the absence of the extension agents, saying that it has resulted into farmers losing out on relevant information as well as high production.