The Executive Director, National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaisons Services (NAERLS), Prof. Mohammed Kabir-Othman, Zaria has said that he institute in collaboration with USAID, AGRA is set to transform the lives of 360,000 smallholder farmers in Kaduna and Niger State in two years. He sated this at the opening of a three-day Stakeholders Inception Meeting held in Kaduna on Monday.
The Director said the collaboration between the institute and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), NAERLS and Community Based AdVisors for Improved Productivity (CBA) is aimed at improving smallholder farmer’s productivity in maize, rice and soybeans.
Mohammed-Othman assured that the institute would do everything humanly possible to ensure that the aims and objectives of the project is fully achieved, advising that all hands must be on deck to the attainment of the set objectives.
He expressed appreciation that NAERLS was privileged to receive a grant of over $1 million for the project that would be implemented in two states of Kaduna and Niger in the next two years.
The Director said the essence of the project was to increase the productivity and income of 360,000 smallholder farmers in the two states.
“The whole idea is to galvanize the establishment of private extension agents but when we talk of private, we are not talking about those who are going to make profit.
“We are talking about the farmers themselves should be the extension personnel by acquiring knowledge and sharing it among themselves,” he noted. He lamented that the public extension system was almost collapsing, adding that in the last 30 years the services being rendered by extension agents had drastically reduced.
Mohammed-Othman observed that though about 60 per cent of Nigerians were farmers, yet, farming was not being practiced as a business but as a tradition by many.
“That is why our agricultural productivity is very low when you compare to other several countries at par with us.” In his speech, the Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof. Ibrahim Garba lauded the efforts of the organisers for what he described as a wonderful thought.
Garba observed that transforming agricultural sector from its traditional form to a modern one with a clear market orientation was indeed the most reassuming strategy and a tool to fighting hunger, ignorance and poverty.
“The income of smallholder farmers from agricultural production, processing and marketing is marginal mainly due to low productivity, marketing constraints, as well as publicity/institutional constraints.
“This is mainly due to low input use by smallholder farmers with average fertilizer use of 18kg/hectare compared to a world average of 100kg/hectare and 150kg/hectare for Asia.”
According to him, only five per cent of Nigerian farmers have access to improved seeds compared with 25 per cent in East Africa and 60 per cent in Asia.
According to him, only five per cent of Nigerian farmers have access to improved seeds compared with 25 per cent in East Africa and 60 per cent in Asia. He also identified very low level of mechanisation as another constraint with 10 tractors per 100 hectares, adding that average yields for maize, rice and soybeans in Nigeria was far below the world average.
“All of these constraints are associated with a lack of awareness resulting from an ineffective extension services. This trend cannot be allowed to go unchecked with our enormous human and material resources.”
The AGRA representative, Dr Esther Ibrahim said of the over 156,000 and 270,000 smallholder farmers targeted from Niger and Kaduna States respectively, the organisation had reached out to 31,000 and 80,000 respectively.
On his part, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Manzo Ezekiel said the state government had graciously upgraded the Kaduna Agricultural Development Project (KADP) to an agency, Kaduna Agricultural Development Agency (KADA). He explained that the agency was saddled with the responsibility of ensuring effective and efficient extension services across the state.
Ezekiel opined that extension services were key to expanded and improved agricultural productivity, adding that for any nation to be food sufficient, it must attach importance to extension services.