By Franca Ofili
Mr Ken Ukaoha, President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), has decried poor access to information from Extension Service delivery to small scale farmers.
Ukaoha said this in Abuja on Monday during a policy dialogue on key thematic issues on agriculture in Nigeria.
He said the dialogue was to mobilise the voice of small scale farmers and various stakeholders to effectively address their concerns through an evidence-based advocacy for credible solution.
“One of key thematic issues NANTS is interested in is the subject of Extension Service delivery to Nigeria farmers.
“It is regrettable that the system has been marred with a lot of challenges, particularly in the area of providing feedbacks as majority of farmers now depend on radio stations for their source of information.
“ The challenges have made the farmers not to express their understanding, share experience or opinions about farm related issues that concern them,’’ Ukaoha said.
Agricultural extension is the service that provides technical advice to farmers, helps farmers acquire required inputs, including credit for farming, provides training and evaluates new agricultural technologies on farmers’ fields in close collaboration with farmers.
They help link farmers to supply chain and markets, forwards farmers’ concerns and problems to decision makers and thus helps in formulation of new and favorable agricultural policies suitable for different regions.
He added that the extension agents were faced with their own challenges, such as inadequate funds, poor training and retraining obsolete system.
Ukaoha said that other thematic issues facing farmers was the current herdsmen-farmers crises and its impact on agriculture and food security.
He said poor investment in agriculture had affected the small scale farmers that occupied 80 per cent of the national food production and so called on relevant authority to find a way to address the issue.
“We carried out extension service survey in six states and we found out that there is absent of tools for them to operate,
“We also found out that the extension workers are not in the communities and these are places where the farmers are doing their work,’’ Ukaoha said.
According to him, if farmers do not have attention of the extension service agent then the country is not making any head way.
Prof. Seth Akutson, Department of Economics, Kaduna State University, said the challenges faced by small scale farmers had hampered and stifled the growth and development of farmers for decades which left them in squalor with poor yield.
Akutson said that most of the challenges are poor extension service delivery, climate change, floods and disasters, weak and conflicting policy frames and approaches and poor agriculture mechanization/ highly labour intensive means of farming.
Others he said were weak processing methods, low value addition, lack of effective and organised cooperative unions, lack of modern technology that would increase farm yield and poor farm management capabilities, among others.
He called on the government to find a way to address the challenges faced by farmers in order to boost production.
Mr Sylverter Baye, Director, Policy and Planning in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said government had taken great steps to boost agriculture in the country.
Baya said that government had also taken step to improve on the extension service, adding that now the ministry had a department that takes care of it.
“The department ensures that all the innovations that are coming from the research institutes are made available to the farmers before the country does not even have such services,’’ he said,
According to him, the Federal Government has done a lot to ensure that the country produces all the rice it consumes.
Baya said that the government had zero tolerance for rice importation into the country. (NAN)