The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Saturday distributed 370 motorcycles to extension agents to further enhance service delivery to Nigerian farmers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the motorcycles were given to the agents as soft loan at 50 per cent discount.
NAN also reports that the minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had earlier commissioned a “National Farmer Help Line (NFHL) Centre”, meant to provide a linkage between extension workers and farmers across Nigeria.
Ogbeh, flagging-off the distribution exercise at the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaisons Services (NAERLS), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, said the motorcycles were to improve efficiency.
“It is a great privilege for me to launch and flag-off the distribution of these motorcycles to the frontline agricultural extension workers in the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) in various states.
“It has become imperative and indeed compelling for Nigeria to diversify its economy, having been virtually dependent on petroleum for four decades.
“The country has realised that the most apparent sector to achieve this is the agriculture sector, which presents the greatest potential for sustainable economic development of Nigeria in terms of resource-based approach to growth,” he said.
Ogbeh said that the country must therefore transit from oil-dependency to a more diversified economy, as the domestic economy is always susceptible to external revenue shocks when oil prices fall.
According to him, that informs the imperativeness for the economic diversification from oil as a depleting asset, since the country is too richly endowed with abundant natural assets for it to concentrate on tapping just one.
He said the country needed an economic diversification model that would help absorb fiscal shocks, fend-off monetary instability and provide employment opportunities for the teeming energetic work-force.
The minister said it was in realisation of this that President Muhammadu Buhari directed the setting up of four special committees, one of which is on “Revitalisation of Agricultural Extension Services in Nigeria”.
Ogbeh lamented that extension service delivery in the country fell into hard times since the closure of the World Bank loans in the early 2000.
“In an effort to re-engineer extension service delivery in the country, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has decided to tackle the issue from the foundation.
“One of such fundamental issues is the provision of mobility to the extension agents in the State’s Agricultural Development Programmes in all states of the federation,” he noted.
The minister said it was necessary to provide the extension agents left in the service of ADPs with appropriate form of mobility.
He said that over the years, motorcycles have been found to be the most efficient means of mobility for agricultural extension agents.
NAN reports that the minister was in Zaria for an inspection tour of agricultural institutes comprising IAR and NAERLS.
Other research institutes to be visited by the minister are the National Animal Production and Research Institute (NAPRI) as well as Division of Agricultural Colleges (DAC).
In his address, the Director, NAERLS, Prof. Mohammed Othman-Khalid identified some challenges hindering the growth of research to include untimely release of money and obsolete research facilities.
He said the institute had trained about 30,000 youths under the N-Power scheme and it aided farmers to source credit facilities worth N100 million in 2016/2017, which was fully repaid.
Earlier, the Director, Extension Services, Fedral Ministry of Agriculture, Hajiya Karima Babangida, lamented that the extension worker-farmer ratio stood at 1:10,000 and 1:25,000 in some states.
She said the motorcycle distribution was a demonstration of passion the minister had for extension services.
Babangida said that each ADP would receive 10 motorcycles for onward distribution to extension agents in its state.
She said the ministry would provide facilities in all the zonal centres in the six geo-political zones, to assist farmers through the National Farmer Help Line.
Babangida said the motorcycles distribution was being done in all the six geo-political zones of the country, and urged beneficiaries to make judicious use of them to improve productivity.