Despite the many challenges facing the agriculture sector, state governments in the South West are embarking on initiatives to boost extension services through the Agricultural Development Programme (ADB).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that poor funding, poor supervision, lack of working materials and dearth of extension workers have been the constraints of some agencies’ activities in some states in the South West.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) showed that in Ogun, the state government has recruited 103 extension workers to replace those who retired from service under the ADB
Mrs Taiwo Ayansanwo, the Programme Manager of Ogun Agricultural Development Programme (OGADEP), told NAN that government would continue to assist farmers through provision of agricultural extension services to enhance their productivity.
Ayansanwo said that OGADEP had organised an induction programme for the newly recruited officers to appreciate their responsibilities as agricultural extension officers who would work closely with farmers on the field.
She said that the exercise would focus on every zone in the state in order to train people on the technicalities of agricultural extension service.
Ayansanwo implored the farmers to always make themselves available and make the best use of the opportunity provided by ministry officials and other extension workers to practicalise the innovations in farming for maximum yield.
According to her, the state Ministry of Agriculture maintains a Department of Agricultural Services, which she describes as service-oriented and the extension arm of the main ministry.
She said the department had an Arable Crop Division, which undertakes the multiplication of high yielding, disease resistant and improved varieties of seeds and cuttings of crops.
The Rural Institution and Infrastructure Division, according to her, handles management of all farm settlements and estates as well as the administration of the Odeda Farm Institute, which is the training arm of the Ministry of Agriculture.
She said the Fruits/Food Crops and the Horticulture Division provides information and support to farmers on best practices on multiplication of some fruits/crops in the nursery.
Alhjaji Tunde Jegede, the Chairman of Cassava Farmers Association in Ogun, said his members had been benefitting from the researches and training programmes provided by extension workers in the state.
He listed such areas to include land preparation, quality stems, adequate spacing of crops, application of appropriate fertiliser, insecticide, farm maintenance and improved harvesting methods of farm produce
Jegede explained that many cassava farmers had continued to get the best yields through training from extension services which had helped them to break away from traditional ways of farming.
Mr Johnson Olawale, a senior officer in the Oyo State Agricultural Development Programme,(OYSADEP), said Agriculture Extension Service remained an integral part of the state’s agriculture policy.
Olawale, however, said that the number of extension officers was decreasing due to exit of officers who had reached retirement age.
He said the new administration had taken cognisance of the shortfall and had included it in its agenda to resuscitate all farm settlements in the state.
The officer stressed that agriculture was one of the cardinal programmes of the new administration in the state, adding that there was no way government could drive the sector successfully without prioritising the inclusion of more extension service workers.
He said the state Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resource was partnering with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in the training of extension service workers to upgrade their knowledge.
He said IITA was also involved in the training of some selected farmers through collaboration with farmers organisations such as All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).
Mr David Ogundele, the state Secretary of AFAN, confirmed that agriculture extension service was available in the state and assisting farmers to adopt new farming practices.
Dr Olubukola Aluko, the Coordinating Director of Osun Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security said the state had active agencies and departments saddled with agriculture extension services.
Aluko said one of the agencies, Osun State Agriculture Development Programme (OSADEP) has its headquarter in Iwo Local Government Area and zonal offices across the state.
He said that OSADEP provides agricultural for farmers and educates them on best agricultural practices.
“OSADEP relates with research institutes across the country in the area of training and latest approaches to agriculture.
“The extension officers go to the field to meet farmers and disseminate the latest information to them.
“They usually divide the farmers into groups and then give them training and also educate them on the best practices to improve their production,” Aluko said.
The coordinating director further explained that providing extension services was part of the state government’s integral programme to boost and improve the sector.
In Ekiti, farmers and other stakeholders acknowledged the impact of the Agricultural Development Programme through the extension services offered to farmers.
Some of them told NAN that the ADP had actually been playing the role of knowledge bank on issues relating to cultivation of farmland, planting of crops as well as application of germicides and pesticides.
Two respondents, Mr Dayo Makinde and Mrs Toyin Akande, both farmers, said the daily sensitisation programme sponsored by Ekiti State Agricultural Development Programme on the state-owned media in the last 20 years had been a source of great assistance to farmers.
The Programme Manager of Ekiti ADP, Mr Okadele Yakub, said the organisation had done a lot in improving the lot of farmers.
NAN learnt that poor funding, poor supervision, lack of working materials and dearth of extension workers had constrained the agency’s activities.
An Agricultural Economist, Dr Demola Fasoyin, also said the state government must increase funding to the agency, employ more extension service staff and increase the capacity of the agency through training of workers in the area of agricultural credit financing.
Mr Emanuel Balogun, a farmer in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State, also advised the state government to provide more extension workers to boost agriculture in the state.
Balogun, who decried the inadequacy of extension workers, said the dearth of such essential workers had drastically reduced the productivity of many farmers.
He said agric extensionists provided a critical support service for rural farmers to enable them to solve any problem they encountered in their farms.
According to him, an agric extensionist serves as a middleman between the state government and the farmers and trains them on best agricultural practises.
“Most of the advanced countries which are performing excellently well in agriculture have vibrant extension officers who with the farmers for optimum production,” he said.
Balogun called on government at all levels to employ more agric extension officers to carry out periodic training and retraining for farmers.