By Palma Ileye
Federal Government has promised to reposition Agricultural sector and Extension Services through better irrigation systems to address matters of food security and sustainability in the country.
This assurance was made yesterday at the Opening Ceremony of the 6th Africa-Wide Agricultural Extension Week in Abuja.
Declaring the conference open, Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was represented at the occasion by Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, FMAFS, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi stated that irrigation equipment would be provided at highly subsidized prices to enhance production, increase productivity and ultimately higher incomes of farmers in the country.
He said, “We are mindful of the fact that the cost of fueling the irrigation pumps today has increased so we are looking into the way of renewable energy alternatives to reduce cost so the irrigation pumps we are talking about now are those ones that are driven by solar power, we are also looking at the electric ones.”
He said that theme of this year’s African Extension Week which is “Harnessing Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services in Scaling Regenerative Agriculture and Nature Based Solutions for Food System Transformation in Africa”, was apt noting that Federal Government has recognized the huge potentials of agriculture as a key sector in driving the nations economy and as a tool to fight unemployment, hunger and poverty.
He said that it was against this background that the present administration is pursuing a 8-point agenda which include food security; poverty eradication; growth, job creation and access to capital amongst others.
According to him, the Federal Governmnt seeks to restructure the economy from unnecessary borrowing to finance Government programme activities as well as create jobs, achieve economic growth, “prosperity for all” and end poverty.
He said that, “Agriculture must be market oriented and move away from the subsistence farming been practiced by our smallholders farmers. In achieving this the Government has come up with programmes such as National Agriculture Growth Scheme-Agro-pocket where millions of farmers are supported through training on Good Agricultural Practices, Certified inputs such as improved seeds and organic and inorganic fertilizers and irrigation equipment at highly subsidized prices to enhance their production, increase productivity and ultimately higher incomes to the farmers.”
He said that Agricultural extension plays a critical role in bringing relevant and improved technologies developed by National Agricultural Research Institutions, NARIs, inputs suppliers and marketers to farmers.
Adding that to strengthen Agricultural Extension Delivery Services in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has put together the first ever Harmonized Extension Manual in Nigeria and National Agricultural Extension Policy.
He said, “The Harmonized Extension Manual focuses on how to effectively disseminate and deploy agricultural innovations/technologies to end-users using appropriate extension methods. The manual will be of great benefit to extension administrators, Subject Matter Specialists, Extension Agents as well as farmers along the agricultural value chains.
“The National Extension Agricultural Extension Policy seeks to provide a pragmatic, effective and efficient demand driven plurastic, ICT-enabled and market oriented extension service to all stakeholders including youths, women, and people with special needs to optimally use resources to promote sustainable agriculture and socio-economic development of the country.
“Our resolve is to develop the agricultural sector towards the attainment of the objectives of SDGs especially those of zero hunger and to improve agriculture and rural productivity. Nigeria current plan is to achieve self-sufficiency in food production and reduce dependency on food imports.
“This Government is open to suggestions that can enhance our efficiency and effectiveness in repositioning Nigeria agriculture and I hope this conference will come up with actionable solutions to agricultural challenges in Nigeria.
“Let me appreciate African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services, AFAAS, for coming up with this great conference and also our development partners: USAID, GIZ, IFPRI amongst others for their support to this conference where African countries interact to channel the best course of action aimed at agricultural extension service delivery for agricultural prosperity, and also for their efforts that culminated in the production of Harmonized Extension Manual and National Extension Policy Document,” he added.
Furthermore, he re-assured of Government’s renewed commitments towards attaining food security in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda in Nigeria.
Also, Permanent Secretary, FMAFS, Dr Ernest Umakhihe who was represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agricultural Extension Services in the Ministry, Mr Michael Brooks said that the importance of extension services cannot be over emphasised, hence the creation of Agricultural Extension Service Department in December 2012 in the then FMARD now FMAFS to disseminate and support farmers to adopt improved technology and innovation for sustainable Agricultural development and productivity.
He also said that the essence of Agricultural Extension Services was to address Post harvest challenges, capacity building and for food security.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Niger State, Mohammed Umar Bago restated commitments in the development of Agriculture and extension services in the State.
The Governor who was ably represented by the Commissioner of Agriculture in Niger State, Musa Bawa Bosso said that the State welcomes partnerships and collaborations for sustainable Agriculture and acceleration of the country’s economic growth.
Earlier, representing the Benue State Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, the State Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof Moses Ogbaji pointed out that the importance of Agricultural Extension in Nigeria cannot be over emphasised, saying that there was a decline in human capacity in terms of Agricultural Extension Services.
He said that the Benue State was ready to implement all the findings of conference as it crucial to development of the country and would be implementated at the State level.
There was also the launch of two strategic Policy books, namely; Harmonized Extension Manual in Nigeria and National Agricultural Extension Policy at the event.