RELEGATION OF EXTENSION SERVICE IN PACE SETTER STATE: INJUSTICE TO FARMERS

The Agricultural sector in Nigeria has continued to play prominent role in the socio-economic development of the country.

There is no doubt that the sector remains the base of Nigeria’s economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians. A dynamic that is mirrored in most states of the federation of which Oyo State is no exception.

According to Oxford Business Group, Agriculture is currently the main contributor to Oyo State’s economy comprising 38% of Gross State Product (GSP) and directly or indirectly employing as much as 70% of the workforce. Therefore, Agricultural sector should be one of the key priorities of any government in the State.

The recent policy of the State government which takes Agricultural extension service back to pre 1983/World bank era has relegated Agricultural extension services of the state to the background and this will surely be accompanied with negative consequences as regards the agricultural development of the pace setter state if urgent reversal of the retrogressive policy is not embarked upon.

Agricultural extension system evolved over several decades and refers to a set of activities which involved communication, information, demonstration and technical training geared towards disseminating improved farm technologies to farmers and transforming their skills, knowledge and attitude towards improved farm production and standard of living.

The need for the ADPs in Nigeria was derived from the argument that the concept and scope of traditional extension system was too broad and not achieving the intended objectives.

The evolution of ADPs in Nigeria falls into 3 distinct generations, 3 enclave projects of which Oyo North was included in 1982 and went state wide with the nomenclature of Oyo State Agricultural Development Programme in 1990.

Permit me to inform the Oyo state government that the positive effect of Oyo North Agricultural Development Project in the 3 Local Governments of Oke- Ogun is still visible till date. The extension activities of Oyo North then turned the community to experts in the production of different crops and livestock eg cowpea and other leguminous crops just to mention a few.

Arokoyo as far back as 2003, affirmed that ADP in Nigeria has achieved the following successes, increased yield figures, stimulated the linkage between research, extension and farmers through the complementary support services, construction of a wide network of rural roads, innovative emphasis of women in agriculture and has well catered for the needs of rural women in agricultural production/processing, improved nutrition, child care, clothing, home managements, family education and welfare.

The achievements of ADP in the State is legion as it is this public extension system that transferred or teach farmers improved system of farming. ADP is the only organization that assists farmers on their business as regards counseling, technology transfer and other technical areas concerning farm operations.

It should be noted that small holder farmers who produced the bulk of the food consumed in the state relied solely on the ADP system for more knowledge, skills and technologies that can enhance their production. The state government should realize that it is only when technologies are disseminated and adopted by farmers that the anticipated increase in agricultural output can be achieved. Now that youth, women and other new entrants are being welcome into agriculture, the need for quality agric extension service cannot be over emphasized.

The ADP is a structure that spreads all over the 36 States including the Federal Capital Territory, why will Oyo State case be different.

ADP is a key player in Research-Extension-Farmers-Input-Linkage-System (REFILS) which represents the framework of the coordination of research and extension activities in different zones of the country including Southwest zone. The ceding of the extension arm of Oyo ADP to the Ministry of Agriculture will definitely put small holder farmers at a disadvantage.

The governor of Oyo State, Engr. Seyi Makinde has been performing excellently well in other sectors, he has recorded first in so many areas since he assumed office in 2019.

I believed he was wrongly advised to take this retrogressive step, and this has generated a lot of outcry from practicing farmers. Oyo State government also stands to loose some intervention projects that supposed to come to the State through the ADP, if the status quo is maintained.

As a member of the Oyo North Agric development project team when it was restricted to only 3 Local Governments in Oke-ogun and someone who witnessed the achievements of the ADP during the enclave era and when it went state wide, I believed the policy need to be revisited.

The achievements of Oyo ADP since inception can be easily verified by the State government.

Now that we felt Agriculture should be seen as a business, l do not see anything wrong if the Agric business unit is created to cater for medium and large scale farmers and operate along with the ADP which already has a solid structure in place and serving the interest of small holder farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture where ADP/extension was ceded to has more than enough to cope with and can never meet the needs of farmers in terms of input, technology transfer and other services being provided by the proscribed ADP.

Despite the fact that Agriculture is on the concurrent list, there a is need for state government to involve those who understand the operation of National Agricultural Research and Extension system (NARES) and genuine stakeholders who have what it takes to move the sector forward in the state.

The role of extension service in the development of agriculture is clear and can never be relegated anywhere in the world. Agric extension supposed to be given its rightful place, if our journey to self sufficiency in food production will not be a myriad.

As a performer and grass root governor with interest of common people at heart of which small holder farmers are sizeable part, I expect His Excellency to strengthen ADP by recruiting more extension agents and provide them with motorcycles to improve their task of disseminating adoptable technologies to farmers.

The food situation now does not call for such experiment as the negative implications may be far reaching and linger on for several years to come.

Adeniyi Amusat (PhD) is an Agricultural extension practitioner whose field experience spanned over three decades.

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