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Modernising Extension Service For Farmers’ Productivity



Recently, the Federal Department of Agricultural Extension (FDAE), under the auspices of the Federal Ministry Of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) held a capacity building workshop on ICT for its Agriculture Extension Officers, conducted by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU, Zaria. MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI examines the eventual impact on farmers’ productivity and nationwide Agriculture.

At the collaborative workshop between the Federal Department of Agricultural Extension (FDAE), and the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) recently, focus was centered on the importance of technologies and communication to ensure, quality and fast extension services to farmers for increased and commercial agricultural production.

In Nigeria, amongst other challenges to agriculture, lies a huge gap between the extension agents and farmers’ ratio, therefore many farmers are either unaware of the newest practices for larger crops yields or lack the technologies to embark on modern farming systems.

Herein comes technology and communication to the rescue. And both agencies are working together to build capacity of extension workers on existing modern and communication methods to enable fast and quality extension services via the training of 120 staff members of the FDAE, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development by the NAERLS, and the sensitisation of the public on the availability and benefits of the National Farmers Helpline Centres (NFHC).

FDAE Director of Extension, Mrs Karima Babangida said that by simply adopting global best practices like ICT, or e-Extension as it is popularly called, gaps between extension agents and farmers will be bridged and spur greater exchanges between both parties. “This will translate to better income, livelihood for farmers and ensure farmers, particularly those in the rural areas, profit from whatever they produce, and to produce for commercial and not just subsistence purposes.”

Another means of modernising extension services is through the National Farmers Helpline Centres (NFHC). Aware that the training of the 120 extension staff workers from three FDAE across various states of the nation does not necessarily equate to the dissemination or reach to all farmers, executive director of NAERLS, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof M K Othman, announced the agency’s upcoming sensitisation programme on NFHC.

“NFHC is a packaged solution to the problem of agriculture extension service in Nigeria. Using the mobile lines of individual farmers, extension staff can pass on information to them; it also allows the farmer to reach out to the centre through their phones to access whatever information or solution to his agricultural needs,” expounded Othman.

As one of the National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, NAERLS’ objectives to promote effective agriculture extension services delivery, research innovation and building capacity of extension service deliverers, are geared towards evaluation and documenting of their impacts on the socio-economic lives of particularly the rural and urban populace.

To articulate the funding needed to embark on the nationwide campaign, Othman says NAERLS is partnering with stakeholders in the intervention process. The lure, he reveals, is the assurance that “the services it offers will directly benefit all involved stakeholders.” “With a little funding, we will begin the sensitisation. We are hoping the media – radio, TV, newspapers and telecommunications companies will aid us in the process.”