The Executive Secretary of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Professor Garba Sharubutu has said that the Council has the mandate to develop early maturing crops in an effort to address the challenges of food security.
Professor Sharubutu also said the development of extension services is one of its top priorities in order to communicate new farm technics and technologies to the farmers in the rural areas.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, the ARCN boss said early maturity crops could encourage farmers to plant twice in any farming season, especially in the southern part of the country.
“We have identified the early maturing crops like cowpea, maize, rice, millet, yam, cassava which can stabilize the country given the threat challenges we are witnessing.
“The point is that the late-maturing crops as important as their gestation period is long, and because it is long, in between one harvesting season and the other, you are definitely going to have problems.
He said it was as a result of the food insecurity threat posed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lingering insecurity that prompted the Minister of Agriculture to direct the Council to focus more on the production of early maturing crops.
“In the wisdom of the Minister of Agriculture, there is always this threat of hunger and lack of guarantee for food security in view of the challenges that are staring us in the face.
“First of all, what are the threats? it is the threat of production losses which are drought, lack of arrival of inputs on time. But what informed the decision of the Minister? It is the issue of Covid-19 and the issue of insecurity,” he noted.
He said “a situation where you cannot guarantee staying off your farm for a very long time constitute a serious threat to the food security situation.
“So based on that, let us look at early maturing crop, these are the staple crops we have in the country where somebody can easily take it with little ingredients. In addition, their cost of production is low and in the southern part of this country, the weather is such that we can have plantings per growing seasons.
“If you go to somewhere like Ekiti or Ibadan, Imo, you will find out that you can grow maize twice per season. However it will require a good knowledge of the crop, its growing habit and nutrient requirement to achieve this, and this where the experts come in.”
Furthermore, Professor Sharubutu harped on the development of the extension services which the Council had already started through the provision of extension teaching materials and deploying them to farming communities.
“We have to improve our extension activities. Extension mainly was with the Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs), but you know after the exhaustion of the funds provided by international donor agencies, the ADPs all of a sudden went low completely because the various state governments were unable to sustain it.
“The personnel may be there, but an extension is not all about just personnel, there are facilities and equipment that you have to use in order to carry out these extension activities.
“When you get to farmers, there is what we call extension teaching methods, and there are various ways in which you can reach a farmer in order to sell an idea to him; motion pictures, palm flex, still pictures, the language of communication, community meetings, and there are situations where you need to use a combination of these methods, and the quickest one we have found to have a serious impact is while having community meetings, you also need to use pictures both motion and the rest, so we have to provide these facilities.
“In addressing about 100 farmers, if you don’t have a public address system, while you are talking, other persons will be distracted because they are not hearing what you are saying, and so your extension teaching method will not be effective.
“So you need a public address system and vehicles to move from one village to another to hold meetings, you also need video materials to demonstrate how to undertake good farming practice. All these are provided for in the Act establishing ARCN,” he added.
“We are reactivating existing adopted villages and adopted schools. For adopted schools, we want to catch them young, based on that, we have sent out a lot of extension teaching materials through our various research institutes and colleges.
“Last year we were able to distribute to about 12 colleges and research institutes out of the 26, this year, the Minister has approved again, by so doing, we will be assisting the various state governments in achieving adequate extension coverage,” Professor noted.
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