Expert urges government to improve ratio of extension workers to farmers
An expert, Mr Richard Ogundele, on Monday advised the three levels of government to improve the ratio of agricultural extension workers to farmers in the country to enhance food production.
Ogundele told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the current ratio of one extension worker to about 10,000 farmers was a threat to efforts at achieving food sufficiency in the country.
Ogundele is an intervention manager for Growth and Employment in State (GEMS), a project funded by the World Bank and the UK’s Department for International Development in Nigeria.
Agriculture extension service is the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices to farmers.
Ogundele stressed that effective agricultural extension services might be expensive but would boost food production, improve income and knowledge of farmers and create more jobs.
He said that agricultural extension workers were the bridge between farmers and research institutes, adding that they also functioned as the link between farmers and the government.
“The government must take extension service delivery seriously. The ratio between the extension workers and farmer is too low.
“We cannot have one extension worker to about 10,000 farmers or more, they need to break it down into smaller units.
“Ideally, we should have one extension worker to about 200 farmers within a cluster so that they can make impact by effectively teaching and monitoring the farmers’ progress,” he said.
Ogundele stressed that information was vital to agricultural development programmes but farmers seldom feel the impact of agricultural innovations due to poor dissemination or lack of access to important information.
“How will the extension worker reach the farmers? He does not have a bike, does not have residential apartment in the villages where he can stay while visiting the farmers.
“No allowance and tools to work, when was the last time he was trained, what latest information does he have regarding this crops, diseases, climate change, that he is supposed to supervise the farmers on.
“He is ill-equipped to help the farmers. It is like the blind leading the blind,” he said.
He emphasised that non-provision of agricultural information was a key factor that had greatly limited agricultural development in the country.
According to him, farmers should know how and when to cultivate; how to use improved seeds; when and how to apply fertiliser; when and how to harvest.
“To achieve this, the capacity of extension workers should be built through seminars and workshops so that they can be abreast of latest technology and transfer same knowledge to farmers.”