The Federal Government has trained agricultural extension agents to revitalise agricultural extension services and to boost performance and productivity of farmers in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Nanono, said this at the opening of a four-day training of extension agents (workers) on Monday in Abuja.
Nanono noted that the development of agricultural extension services in the country predated Nigeria’s Independence.
He said that agricultural extension delivery was the driver of all agricultural policies and research, without which all effort in the agricultural ecosystem might not realise its intended goals.
He noted that over the years, the fortunes of the agricultural extension system had declined 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 by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to halt the drift in the agricultural extension system with the aim of pursuing the revitalisation agenda of the Nigerian economy by the Federal Government,” he said.
The minister said the training of agricultural extension agents was being held across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
Nanono noted that agriculture was now taking center stage in the world, saying that having well trained extension workers and good tools was essential in agriculture.
The minister noted that to achieve agricultural mechanisation, good extension workers were also needed adding that the Federal Government would achieve its target of training 75, 000 extension workers to revive extension advisory services.
He urged the agents to take the training very seriously, not only to guide the farmers but to become farmers themselves.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, in the ministry, Mr Ernest Umakhihe, said the capacity building of agricultural extension agents was a key activity in the implementation of the Federal Government’s policy on revitalisation of agricultural extension delivery in Nigeria.
Umakhihe was represented by Mr Frank Kudla, Director, Department of Agriculture Extension.
He said the training was meant to bridge the gaps identified in the performance of the frontline extension agents, who were the major links between farmers and research/innovations.
“The noticeable declining number and low skills have hampered adoption of best practices and new innovations in the agricultural sector, this is shown in the resultant low productivity and lack of adherence to standards causing rejection of Nigerian produce aboard.
“The drive by the present administration to revitalise agricultural extension services in Nigeria is to help farmers and value chain actors to make effective use of productive forces.
“Also advances in information technology 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 reposition the Agricultural Development Projects (ADP) system through training, provision of equipment and tools as well as funding to carry out their primary mandate and responsibilities to farmers,” he said.
He noted that the current situation posed by COVID-19 had brought new challenges to food supply and youths 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.