Agric ministry trains agents to halt drift

From Teryima Ajijah, Jos

Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has said, the ministry is currently training 30 extension agents to halt the drift in the agricultural extension system.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammed Nanono recently made the disclosure in Jos Plateau state. The minister spoke through a senior staff of the ministry, Mrs Dorathy Botar, who said that the training is aimed at pursuing the revitalisation agenda of the Nigerian economy by the Federal Government.

“As you are all aware, the development of agricultural extension services in the country predates Nigeria’s independence, about 120 years ago, and precisely in 1893, beginning with the British West Africa Colonial Administration.

“Since then agricultural extension has metamorphosed from one stage to another, asserting its importance in rural and semi-urban development, food and job supply for the fast growing population, especially in emerging economies like Nigeria.

“Agricultural extension delivery is the driver of all agricultural policies and research, without which all effort in the agricultural ecosystem may not realize its intended goals. Over the years,  the fortunes of the agricultural extension system has declined majorly due to decreased funding, policy changes, reduced man-power and lack of interest of young people in agricultural entrepreneurship.

“This situation has affected food production exposing the country to the dangers of unemployment, youth restiveness and economic instability. This training is one of several strategies planned FMARD to halt the drift in the agricultural extension system with aim of pursuing the revitalisation agenda of the Nigerian economy by the Federal Government.

“At the inception of this administration, a special committee on the revitalisation of agricultural extension service in Nigeria was constituted. The committee is to 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,” he said.

The Permanent Secretary, FMARD, Mr Ernest Umakhihe said that the drive was to revitalise agricultural extension services in Nigeria to help farmers and value chain actors to make effective use of productive forces and advances in information technology.

Umakhihe who was represented by Mrs Lydia Bosua said that it was to improve the livelihoods of rural populations, create jobs and promote sustainable agricultural and socio-economic development of the country.

“The only way this can be achieved is to re-position the Agriculture Development Programme (ADP) system through training, provision of equipment and tools as well as funding to carry out their primary mandate and responsibilities to farmers.

“The current situation posed by COVID-19 has brought new challenges to food supply and youth employment. It is predictable that an effective ADP system will disseminate and transfer the needed technologies for productivity enhancement and rural income generation for youth and farmers, consequently, stemming the challenges of food supply and employment,” he said.

Director, Federal Department of Agricultural Extension, (FMARD)
Mr Frank Kudla, said that the training is a great turning point. Kudla who also spoke through Mrs Dorathy Botar said that the programme is one of the first among several recommendations of a special technical committee established by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to assist the ministry.

“Other responsibilities to develop a workable frame work and actionable programme for the immediate training of 75,000 extension workers in collaboration with states’ ADPs,” he stated.

On his part, Plateau Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
Dr Hosea Finangwai, who declared the training open said that there was need to prioritise by giving attention to extension officers. “You will agree with me that if the extension officers are not equipped information from research work and class rooms might never get to the farmers,” said the commissioner.

He however, commended the initiative and advised the extension officers to build capacity based on need assessment as there had been a paradigm shift in agriculture.

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