Farmers in the North West are incurring huge losses due to lack of guidance by agriculture extension service workers on modern farming practices, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reveals.
NAN survey in Kaduna, Kebbi, Kano and Katsina states shows that there are a very negligible number of agriculture extension service workers in the states to guide farmers to enhance their yields.
In Kebbi, the Programme Manager of the state Agricultural Rural Development Agency, Alhaji Sanusi Umar, said the ratio of extension service workers to farmers was one to 3, 000.
“It used to be one extension service worker to 300 farmers but that is no more.
“There is no funding for the training of more extension service workers.
“Initially, the agriculture extension services are delivered and funded by the World Bank, federal and the state governments,” he said.
He, however, said that the World Bank and Federal Government withdrew their supports leaving the state government to manage the programme.
Sanusi said that with the insignificant number of agriculture extension service workers, the possibility to cover many farmers became slimmer due to the withdrawal of funding by the stakeholders.
According to him, the farmers incur losses every day due to lack of knowledge on modern methods of managing and improving their crops.
“The agency now has N-Power Agro participants, but they cannot replace the work of the extension workers as most of them have no knowledge of agricultural technology, but we are just making us of them,” the programme manager said.
The State Secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Muhammad Idris said in spite of inadequate number, the available extension service workers had been attending to the needs of farmers.
“Whenever we have challenges and disaster on our farms, we approach them for advice and they help,” Idris said.
In Kano, the State Government has recruited no fewer than 1,118 agriculture extension workers that are currently providing support to farmers in 44 local government areas.
Alhaji Sadi Ibrahim, the Director, Extension Services at the Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority said in spite of the number, the extension workers cater for huge number of farmers across the state.
He said that 170 of the extension workers were women, while the remaining 948 were men.
Ibrahim said the state had been divided into three zones with each zone headed by a Zonal Extension Officer for effective coverage.
“The first zone comprises 14 local government areas, while the second and third zones have 13 and 17 local government areas respectively,” he said.
The director said the extension workers were deployed to local government areas based on the number of farmers to be covered.
He disclosed that Sasakawa Global 2000 had from 2015 to date conducted three training programmes for 800 of the extension workers.
The director assured that the state government would continue to organise training programmes for the extension workers to enable them to discharge their duties effectively.
In Katsina State, which has 34 local government areas, only 260 agricultural extension workers provide services to rural farmers in the state.
Alhaji Awwalu Mohammed, the state Director, Agricultural Extension Services in the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency told NAN that the government had provided motorcycles to the extension workers to ease their movements to the rural areas.
“The extension workers are mandated to assist the farmers with good advices that will make the farmers record high yields.”
The director, however, lamented that the number of extension workers was grossly inadequate.
“We need more extension workers that will cover the state effectively as 70 per cent of the citizens are farmers,” Mohammed said.
In Kaduna state, Mr Ya’u Kassimu, the Director Agriculture Extension Services, said the state had less than 200 extension workers providing various support to farmers.
Kassimu said there were also over 5,000 workers providing similar services across the 23 local government areas under the Federal Government N-Power Agro in the state.
He said the state government was also collaborating with Bayero University to provide additional extension services to farmers through software the university developed.
He said that the software could be accessed through an application on the mobile phone, to help farmers to identify soil type, seeds and chemicals to apply on their farms.
Alhaji Abubakar Malami, the Project Manager of Sokoto State Agricultural Development Project, said the state government was working toward achieving the ratio of one extension worker to 400 farmers in the state.
Malami said in view of this, the state government was targeting to employ 300 extension workers out of which 67 were employed in 2017, to complement the existing ones.
He, however, did not give the total number of agriculture extension service workers in the state.
He said that the agency was partnering with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, for the training of new extension workers and retraining of old ones on modern agronomic practices.
The project manager said that the agency also partnered with IAR on the production of improved seedlings relevant to the climatic condition of the state.
A farmer, Aminu Alkammawa, however, said it was long most farmers received any support from extension workers.
“I doubt if they still exist,” he said. (NAN)