By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State Government has expressed readiness to prioritize and place more importance on its extension officers to ensure that they are able to better help farmers increase their yields and enhance productivity.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya gave the assurance in Lagos on Tuesday, while declaring open a 5-Day Training Programme for Extension Agents in the state in collaboration with the Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority, LSADA, and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Olusanya described the training of the extension agents as a boost for the food security initiative of the State Government, adding that extension officers as teachers of farmers needed to be prioritized and motivated more.
The commissioner stated that extension officers had been relegated for far too long bearing in mind the kind of work they do by teaching farmers the best practices and technologies to be employed in order to enhance the productivity of farmers.
According to her, the narrative would change going forward and agricultural extension officers would begin to enjoy motivation, encouragement and incentives from the state to compensate for all the work they do.
Olusanya commended the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the partnership with the state government in putting together the 5-Day training programme for the extension workers in the state.
According to her, “I see the extension agents as teachers of the farmers, meaning we have to do so much more around encouraging them, motivating them to ensure that they are able to help our farmers in terms of increasing yields and enhance productivity and that we have a more food secured Nigeria and more food secured Lagos.
“But I think that a lot needs to be done for the extension agents that we have. I honestly don’t see so much motivation. It’s not a function of saying that from a place of criticism, but it’s coming from a place of reality. During the lockdown, so much focus was put on teachers by the government to ensure that they do not suffer as schools were shut down and income was not coming in.
“But our farmers and our farming communities suffered huge losses, meaning that the impact of the lockdown would have been worse on extension agents and officers. Who thought about that? It is about time that we begin to move with one voice and begin to show ourselves more in the light that we want to be seen. That narrative needs to change going forward.”
Olusanya said that Lagos could not afford to continue to be dependent on other states for her food supplies adding that it was just a matter of time before trouble broke out if anything goes wrong with the supply chain, hence, the need to look inward and start growing her own food which highlights the importance of extension officers the more.
“As extension officers, you are not just expected to teach the farmers about the latest practices and technologies required to improve their productivity, you are also to help the farmers understand market prices. So essentially, you are also teaching them business because it’s not just about producing, the end result is money.
“For you to do this, there must be motivation and empowerment for our extension workers. So going forward, we need to see more interventions. I realize that we have fallen short in terms of welfare and empowerment for extension officers, we promise to do better and we hope that this is the beginning of better things to come,” the Commissioner averred.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe noted that noticeable declining number and low skills have hampered the adoption of best practices and new innovations in the agricultural sector as evident in
the resultant low productivity and lack of adherence to standards causing rejection of Nigerian produce aboard.
Represented by Lagos State Coordinator for the agric extension agent training, Mrs Olayinka Akeredolu, the Permanent Secretary revealed that the determination of the government to revitalize agricultural extension services in Nigeria will help farmers and value chain actors to make effective use of productive forces and advances in information technology to improve the livelihoods of rural populations, create jobs and promote sustainable agricultural and socio-economic development of the country.
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