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Nigeria: Extension Services can help Agric Sector

Colorful fruits and vegetables colorfully arranged at a local fruit and vegetable market in Nairobi, Kenya.

Nigeria’s export faces rejection at international markets. Re-introducing agricultural extension services can address low productivity of farmers, post-harvest challenges and rejection of fresh produce from Nigeria in the international markets.

Therefore, the Samara College of Agriculture (SCA), a division of Agricultural Colleges, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Samaru, Kaduna State, has urged economic managers to bring back agricultural extension services into the nation’s agricultural sector.

The Provost of SCA, Mr Egbenya Shaibu-Imodagbe, explained that vibrant extension services were key to the productivity of farmers when the country placed greater emphasis on agriculture in the colonial, pre-colonial and post-colonial eras.

Shaibu-Imodagbe said that in order to tackle the rejection of Nigeria’s farm produce in the international market, the college, in collaboration with Winrock International and the USAID, had evolved a curriculum for a post-HND professional certificate in Pesticide Residue Analysis of commonly produced agricultural crops in Nigeria.

According to him, the aim of the programme is to provide detailed information on the composition of pesticides inherent in harvested foods due to the use of pesticides in the production and storage of food crops.

He stated that such a programme would require the support of the federal government to establish detailed analytical laboratories that are equipped with photometric, spectrometric and chromatographic equipment that would be used to undertake diverse analyses to categorise components of our exportable produce, especially food.

He lamented over the poor ratio of extension agents to farmers, saying that it had never been favourable even before the collapse of the extension system in Nigeria.

“Now, the need for economic diversification is what attracts agricultural entrepreneurs to seek bigger markets internationally that are opening up this challenge. Rejection of our produce arises from the non-certification and standardisation of produce. This is what is opening in our college the new programme of professional certificate courses in Pesticide Residue Analysis to fill this emerging gap,” the provost said.

Shaibu-Imodagbe, however, stated that crude oil exploration and subsequent neglect of agriculture worsened the state of agricultural extension services, saying that the situation further compounded the challenges of farmers, aggregators, post-harvest handlers and food vendors in the country’s agric sector.

According to him, in 1932, the Agricultural Training Centre finally became SCA, and in 1932, when formal teaching began with only 17 students admitted to the then School of Agriculture, Samaru, for the Agricultural Assistant Course.

Shaibu-Imodagbe said: “In 1940, admission to the school was by entrance examination followed by interviews. In 1950, the school was transferred from the Federal Department of Agriculture to the government of Northern Region.”

The provost said the college had made highly significant contributions in the training of middle-level manpower in agriculture, predominantly in agricultural extension services, crop protection, farm management, farm mechanization and technology, among others.

He noted, African countries, such the Gambia, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, and the Cameroons, have also benefitted from the training programmes obtainable from Samaru College of Agriculture.

“In the academia, Samaru College did not only have as its alumni Prof Gomwalk but also, Professor (Mrs) Chibiya Shinggu the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Wukari and Professor Dauda D. Yusuf of the Department of Agriculture and Bio-Environmental Engineering of the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Speaking further, he stressed that the federal college expressed its readiness to partner with local government authorities, state governments and the lawmakers to train farmers, emplace a sustainable extension service system and post-harvest management training, saying all hands should be on deck for the missions of feeding the country and safe food exports to be accomplished for more economic prosperity.