An official of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Engineer Frank Kudla, has disclosed that Nigeria does not have an accurate database on the population of extension workers and farmers in the country.
Kudla, the Director of the Department of Agriculture and Extension Service at FMARD, made the observation over the weekend while speaking at a webinar organised by ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) and Small Scale Women Farmers Association of Nigeria (SWOFON).
AgroNigeria had reported that AAN and SWOFON during the webinar called on the Federal Government for a total overhaul of the agricultural extension services sub-sector.
Also decrying the state of the sector, Kudla, who pointed out that one extension agent in Nigeria serves 5,000 farmers, described the situation as abnormal.
According to him, FAO’s standard is for one extension agent for 800 farmers.
However, the ministry director said that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, have been briefed on the need for expansion of the number of extension workers in the country.
Speaking further on farmers’ database availability, Kudla said that 14 million farmers were enumerated under the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES) about five years ago during the administration of a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina.
The data have not been updated since then, he added.
He assured that priority would be given to graduates of Agricultural Extension Services when FMARD commences the training of 75,000 extension workers.
He said, “I can assure that during the discussion on how to implement this training, we have made it a priority for a graduate of extension service of agriculture to be given priority before considering any other profession.”
The director also disclosed that in addition to the proposed 75,000 extension trainees, another 100,000 beneficiaries of the N-power scheme would be used to bridge the deficit.
He added that there are about 8,000 private extension service officers complementing those from the public sector.
On her part, National President of SWOFON, Mary Afan, urged the Federal Government to recruit more qualified extension workers urgently.
Afan also called on the government to review the working conditions of extension workers in the country.
“The service conditions of extension workers require a review. Make the service attractive, especially now that youths are asked to embrace agriculture under programmes like the N-Agro,” she said.