The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, has blamed the decline of the agricultural extension system in the country on funding, policy changes, reduced manpower and lack of interest of youths in agricultural entrepreneurship.
The minister, who was represented by the Akwa Ibom State Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Uyobong Uko, disclosed this yesterday at the training of the second batch of agricultural extension workers in Uyo on extension tools, methodologies and selected agricultural value chains.
According to Abubakar, “This situation has affected food production and exposed the country to the dangers of unemployment, youth restiveness and economic instability.
“The training is one of several strategies planned by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to halt the drift in the agricultural extension system with the aim of pursuing the revitalisation of the Nigerian economy by the federal government.”
He said building the capacity of youths and existing practitioners in the agricultural extension delivery system, exposing and equipping them with best global practices and tools to enable them to deliver with efficiency was recommended by a Special Committee on the Revitalisation of Agricultural Extension Service in Nigeria.
The minister maintained that it was the desire of the federal government to ensure that the agricultural extension delivery system met global competitiveness to ensure adequate food for the population and to argument foreign earnings.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe, noted that the extension agents are the major link between farmers and research/innovation.
Abubakar equally posited that the declining number and low skills had hampered the adoption of best practices and new innovations in the agriculture sector.
This, he said was shown in resultant low productivity and lack of adherence to standards, causing rejection of Nigerian produce abroad.
He said: “The drive by the present administration to revitalise agricultural extension services in Nigeria is to help farmers and value chains actors to make effective use of productive forces and advances in information technology to improve the livelihoods of the rural population, create jobs and promote sustainable agricultural and socio-economic development of the country.”
Declaring the training session open, the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, Dr Glory Edet, urged the participants to take the training seriously.
The commissioner, represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mary Uko-ete, praised the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, for doing everything to inject life into the agriculture sector, including approval for the training.