The Senate spokesperson, Sabi Abudullahi, says technocrats are the major challenges of the Nigerian farming system.
Mr Abdullahi, who represents Niger North Senatorial District, said this on Monday at the 24th Annual Conference of the Agricultural Extension Society of Nigeria (AESON).
He said they shy away from responsibilities, which is not healthy for the system.
The conference, being held under the theme: “Enhancing Agricultural Extension Capabilities for improved Agricultural Value Chain,” is scheduled to end on Wednesday.
AESON is an association of all the professionals in agricultural extension services. It was established to promote the development of agricultural extension profession, as well as its research and practice in Nigeria.
The national conference brought practitioners together to generate ideas for moving extension practice forward in the country.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, the output of the professionals in the Nigerian agriculture sector is low.
“While we are doing our best, let’s accept that our best is not enough,” he said.
He said innovation should be adopted by AESON to help Nigerian farmers improve their productivity.
“We must go back to the drawing board and accept that the extension system that sustained farmers 30 years ago is not the same that will sustain this generation,” Mr Abdullahi said.
Mr Abdullahi said he sponsored “the Agricultural Industry and Modernisation Bill” in the 8th Assembly but lamented that the bill has not been able to pass the second reading due to the crisis in the National Assembly.
“In the 9th Senate, I will push for the bill so that farmers and stakeholders will be impacted by whatever policy we are designing,” he said.
The lawmaker said mechanisation and grading of the agricultural value chain are two aspects of agriculture that have been neglected by the professionals.
“It is not possible to mechanise without agricultural engineers. It is time to upgrade them so that they can be relevant in the society. Professionals have little or no knowledge about agricultural grading and value chain because they have refused to institutionalise grading as part of our system,” he said.
Also speaking at the conference, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said Nigeria is gradually moving away from food import dependence to food self-sufficiency and export.
He was represented at the event by the Director Federal Department of Agriculture Extension, Karima Babangida.
The minister said although the National Agricultural Extension Service (NAES) is not at its best, efforts are being made to improve the system.
“Farmers knowledge and skills need to be enhanced to facilitate and improve agricultural productivity. Agricultural extension will do this,” he said.
“The agricultural sector has the potential to transform the economy of Nigeria,” Mr Ogbeh said.
On his part, the Director-General, Raw Materials and Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Hussaini Ibrahim, said agriculture can get back if the services of the extension are restored.
He said this through the Head of Department, Agriculture and Agro Allied, Gabriel Awolehin.
He said an effective extension delivery system would help to narrow the communication gap between the network of researchers who develop new technologies, the farmers who are the end users of the discoveries and the government that make the policies.
“Acceptance of new technologies by farmers is a necessary pre-condition for agricultural and rural development,” he said.
Mr Ibrahim said the knowledge transferred by the agricultural extension workers in the early 1960s tremendously contributed to the increase in agricultural productivity in the pre-and post-independence era.
“These led to the development of cocoa dome in South-West, cotton and groundnut pyramids in the North. Rubber in South-South and palm produce in the South-East,” he said
“Agricultural extension plays a critical role in the value chain of the agro-raw materials from production by farmers and processing by industries, down to marketing and beyond,” he said.
The association later gave honorary awards to members of the society for their contributions to agricultural development.