As Africa eyes on agriculture development as the enabler of job creation and poverty reduction, a renowned Nigerian expert has singled out real investments into extension services as one of the most critical factors that would make the dream a reality.
Victor Chude, National President of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria told Xinhua in an interview earlier this week that the essence of having extension is for farmers to have access to improved technologies that will enable them to have value for investment they make into agriculture.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation. Extension in most African countries is very weak. In Nigeria it appears to be the weakest; in Ghana you will tell the story. But I know that efforts are being made in Nigeria for example to revamp extension so that farmers would have partners that will enable them to do agriculture as a business,” Chude observed.
The expert who was one of the speakers at the just ended West Africa Fertilizer and Agro-Business Conference held here pointed out that the critical need of extension services in Africa is because the level of African farmers’ education is not as high as is found in Europe and elsewhere.
In Ghana a freeze placed on public sector employment except for the health and education sectors as a condition of fiscal consolidation measures has affected employment of extension officers by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
The absence of extension means that the farmer is left on his own, noted the expert, adding: “if you leave the farmer on his own he goes back to what his forefathers taught him. The implication of the weak extension is that farmers are not getting value for their investment, that is what it means.”
“Another implication is the increase in food production we expect as a result of improvement in research and technology is not being translated into actual reality. So ultimately the food production levels are low,” he said.
The only answer to these challenges and setbacks, he said, is for all African governments to invest in extension services for crop, livestock, fisheries, processing, packaging and marketing.
“All African governments should invest heavily on extension. We have a lot of our youth that are roaming the streets, from the university we see graduates. And all that can be engaged to do the extension work,” he said.
He said that the youths, after training them, can be empowered with mobility to go to the areas where farmers have their farms and advise them on methods of increasing agriculture productivity. “It’s one area that all governments should take seriously and make a lot of investment.” Enditem