Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, says 130, 000 graduate youths have been employed to offer extension services to farmers across the country.
The minister disclosed this at the 24th Agricultural Extension Society of Nigeria (AESON) Annual National Conference in Abuja on Monday.
Ogbeh, who was represented by Mrs Karima Babangida, the Director of Extension Service Department in the ministry, said that the youths were engaged under the Social Investment Programme of the Federal Government.
According to him, extension service needs to be revamped to strengthen the government’s agricultural development process, especially in the commodity value chains.
He said that the graduates were trained and would soon be given tablets to effectively deliver on their mandate.
“Extension service has a crucial role to play in reviving the agricultural sector in the country.
“Our country has enormous potential for agricultural development.
“Besides production, support is also given to other value chains with processing equipment to farmers to add value to their produce and make more money.
“Farmers’ knowledge and skills need to be improved and enhanced to improve their commodities across all the value chains to facilitate improved agricultural productivity in the country.
“This is where extension services are required, in addition to strengthening the capacity of farmers to boost their productivity,” he said.
The minister, however, noted that the country’s extension system was not currently in the best of form to effectively deliver on its mandate.
“This is why the government is working towards bringing extension workers back to assist farmers with best practices,’’ he said.
Ogbeh pledged the ministry’s support wherever it was needed to make agriculture to take its rightful place in the country to enhance the competiveness of its agricultural products at the global market.
Prof. Hussaini Ibrahim, the Director-General, Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) said that there had been a decline in the extension service in the country leading to low productivity.
He said that to achieve availability of value added agro-raw materials for industrial utilisation, effective innovative approaches to production, processing and marketing that would ensure adequate value addition must be put in place.
“The knowledge transfer by the agricultural extension workers in the early 60s contributed to increase in agricultural productivity in pre and post independent era.
“These led to the development of cocoa dome in southwest, cotton and palm produce in the southeast.
“But the decline in the agricultural productivity in the country from 2,000 could be linked to the unavailability of extension services to assist farmers with new innovation to boost productivity.
“Agricultural extension plays a pivotal role in the value chain development of agro-raw materials from production by farmers and processing by industries down to marketing and beyond,” he said.
He called on the Federal Government to bring back the glory of the extension service in the country for effective value chain development of agricultural commodities.
Prof. Lukman Akinbile, the President, AESON, said that the association was collaborating with other stakeholders to make extension practice have a legislated policy in the country.
He added that this would ensure professionalisation of extension practice which would further address the challenges the sub sector was currently facing.
He, however, sought the support of the National Assembly to ensure smooth passage into law when the bills were presented knowing the importance of the extension service in the country.
The conference with the theme: “Enhancing Agricultural Extension Capability in Agro-Raw Materials Value Addition, brought together all practitioners of agricultural extension in Nigeria to brainstorm on challenges facing the sub-sector.