In Kenya, Ogbeh harps on need to improve Nigeria’s agricultural extension system

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, in Kenya, stressed the need to improve the country’s agricultural extension services in order to improve productivity from the Grassroots.

The Minister recalled that successive governments have made efforts to resuscitate the agricultural extension system and several millions of Naira have been spent in the process.

Ogbeh made this known at a Sasakawa Side Event at the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD 6), Nairobi , Kenya.

According to him “Over the past 20 years, the growth of the programme has been impressive in terms of its spread and reach. For example within this period,  Nigeria  worked with more than 4,500 extension agents and 3 million smallholder farmers in the diffusion of improved crop varieties including wheat, maize, rice, cowpea, peanut, soybean, tomato, pepper, groundnut, millet, sorghum, sesame, cotton, and cassava technologies.

“The programme operates by working collaboratively with innovative farmers, to establish production-scale plots to demonstrate packages of improved technology for improved agricultural productivity and food crop marketing through improved access to seeds and seedlings, better fertilizer application methods and crop protection, as well as improved crop management methods through the administration of  Management Training Plots (MTPs).

“The interventions of SG2000 have resulted in a widespread adoption of improved crop production technologies by over 500,000 smallholderfarmers in Adamawa, Kano, Gombe and Jigawa States. Capacity building of extension agents and farmers has been a major program priority and activity of SG 2000 since 1993.

It will be recalled that the Sasakawa-Global 2000 (SG2000) programme commenced in Nigeria in March 1992, following the signing of a  partnership agreement with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to work with federal and state agencies  with the overarching objective to raise agricultural productivity and improve food crop marketing in the country.

The Minister further said in 2013, the Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sasakawa to support the implementation of agricultural extension transformation agenda.

He explained that the MoU which has a duration of 5 years will be financed by the Ministry while Sasakawa provide technical and administrative support for a successful implementation of the programme.

He explained “Based on the outstanding records of successes by SAA/SG 2000, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), once again signed an MOU on the 8th of February, 2013 with SAA to support the implementation of the carefully planned Agricultural Extension Transformation agenda of the FMARD in some selected states of the federation.

“The arrangement is that the MoU will be effective for a period of five years, with the FMARD providing the needed funding while SG 2000 shall use its technical and administrative structure to implement the collectively agreed project activities.

“The intention of the MOU is to formalize a joint endeavor aimed at transforming agricultural productivity and production in Nigeria as a means of ensuring food security and better nutrition for the country, through extension services.

“In 2014 a total of Two Hundred and Eighty Million Naira was released to SAA/SG 2000 for extension service delivery to six states of the federation, covering all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.

“This intervention has directly touched on the lives of over sixteen thousand smallholder farmers by improving their production and productivity; indirectly touched more than double this figure. This partnership shall continue to its logical conclusion and shall be financially supported by the FMARD to cover the entire country.

Ogbeh further explained “One of the key lessons of theSasakawa-Global 2000 (SG2000) programme is that the small holder farmer is still an important player in increasing  agricultural productivity in Nigeria.

“It  underscores the fact that with both proper organization and the right support system, the small holder farmer can be significantly enabled to maximize his/her output  towards the accomplishment of our national strategic objectives of ensuring self-sufficiency in our local staples and food security for the ever increasing national population, as well as  ensuring the phenomenal growth of agro-exports for increased foreign exchange earnings.

“The second lesson is the essence of forging collaboration and partnership among key stakeholders in the agricultural development value chain for the accomplishment of a common purpose. It underscores the reality that agricultural activity and programmes are best designed and executed along several boundaries of authorities with well-defined roles and responsibilities.

“This is especially important in Nigeria bearing in mind that we operate a federal system of government where the control of land is within the purview of state governments, and where the farmers are predominantly located.  Any successful agricultural programme, therefore, must take cognizance of this governance reality if it is to be  both sustainable and impactful.

“The third lesson is that notwithstanding the success of the SC2000 programme, it needs to be scaled- up significantly  to attain a much wider scope, bearing in mind that the total number of farmers that have benefited from the programme over the decades pales into insignificance relative to  those who are presently excluded from the scheme.

“I am aware that, presently, there may be severe constraints in widening the scope of the programme on the part of all the multi-stakeholders participating in the scheme. But, my humble opinion is that we can collectively look into the possibilities and explore all options towards scaling up the programme without necessarily incurring unbearable costs.

“The fourth lesson is the importance of a virile extension system to enhancing agricultural productivity and competitiveness. In Nigeria, it underscores the need for us as a nation to revive the extension service system, which is almost getting moribund. Incidentally, a virile agricultural extension system used to be one of the pillars of our agriculture in the past.  We are committed to reactivating it under the Buhari administration.

“The fifth lesson is the importance of capacity building. The SG2000 programme succeeded largely because capacity was built consistently over time because the capacity-building component was recognized as an important element of programme success. This is worth re-stating as an objective contributory factor to success.

“The sixth lesson- where I will draw the curtain at this stage, is that notwithstanding the key role that the smallholder farmer is still playing in supporting us to achieve food sufficiency and food security, we need the entry of big players in the agriculture industry to bring innovation, quality assurance, entrepreneurship, modern technology, finance, global good practices and expanded markets  to radically improve the fortunes of this sector so that it can  attract multiple players to drive it as a profitable business.

“This, invariably, means giving almost equal attention to both the smallholder and large scale/ commercial farmers as complementary and strategic role players in agricultural development”.