• Sunday, December 10, 2023
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FG moves to boost food production

…unveils agricultural extension policy

President Bola Tinubu has launched a national agricultural extension policy document aimed at driving increased food production and development in the agricultural sector.

Speaking during the 6th ‘Africa-Wide Agricultural Extension Week’ in Abuja on Monday, Tinubu said his administration recognises the huge potential of agriculture as a key sector in driving the nation’s economy and as a tool to fight unemployment, hunger, and poverty.

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Representing by Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, minister of state for agriculture and food security, the president said, “It is against this background that the present administration is pursuing an 8-point agenda which includes food security; poverty eradication; growth, job creation and access to capital amongst others.

“The Federal Government 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.

“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.

“And to strengthen agricultural extension delivery services in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has put together the first-ever Harmonised Extension Manual in Nigeria and National Agricultural Extension Policy.

“The extension policy seeks to provide a pragmatic, effective, and efficient demand-driven 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.”

Speaking further, Tinubu said that it has become imperative for stakeholders to make the sector market-oriented and move away from subsistence farming.

In achieving this, he said the government has come up with programmes such as the National Agriculture Growth Scheme-Agro-pocket where millions of farmers are supported through training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), certified inputs such as improved seeds, organic and inorganic fertilisers and irrigation equipment at subsidised prices.

Michelle Corzine, director, USAID/Nigeria Economic Growth and Environment Office, noted that the Nigerian agricultural extension service delivery system has long faced challenges in achieving food security and economic growth, adding that at the core of this problem was the large extension agent-to-farmer gap.

According to her, the current estimate is that there is one extension agent for every 10,000 farmers. This, she said, limits extension service effectiveness that smallholder farmers really need to increase their productivity.

“To close this gap, USAID, through our partners, uses a private-sector extension delivery model. We engaged almost three hundred (300) micro, small, and medium enterprises to provide extension messaging to more than six hundred thousand (600,000) smallholder farmers.

“We estimate that the participating farmers realised $1.2 billion in sales as a result of the messaging and support from private sector extension services. In addition, the private sector delivery model created more than 500 jobs for youth.

“So, when we heard that the ministry of agriculture and food security was developing a new extension policy and training manual, we wanted to support this agenda because we know that a private sector extension system is a key complement to the public sector’s work,” she said.

Read also: Nasarawa to boost food production as 8,200 farmers get inputs

She said in the past five years, the US. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Feed the Future initiative, has partnered with the Nigerian government and the private sector to increase agricultural productivity, expand market, deepen household resilience, and improve nutrition.

“In addition, the partnership fostered a business-enabling environment that facilitates access to finance, and technology, and enables smallholder farmers to improve techniques and access financial services and markets.

“USAID’S overarching goal and vision remains to sustainably reduce global poverty, hunger, and malnutrition through inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth. This is why the United States government, through USAID, is committed to partnering with the Nigerian government to spur transformational shifts needed to advance agriculture development and stimulate economic growth,” she said.