By Edwin Nwanojuo
An agriculturist, Professor Kuta Yahaya, says extension services are critical to the search for lasting solution to incessant farmers-herders conflicts in the country.
Yahaya, a lecturer at the University of Ibadan, stated this in an interview with newsmen at the sidelines of the 24th Agricultural Extension Society of Nigeria (AESON) in Abuja.
The Conference with the theme: ‘Enhancing Agricultural Extension Capability in Agro-Raw Materials Value Addition’ brought stakeholders in the sub-sector together to brainstorm on the way forward.
“The conflict between herders and farmers needs extension professionals to be permanently resolved.
“Extension workers are trained on handling human psychology, sociology, communication and other strategies. If we had them in place, most of the conflicts must have be resolved,” he said.
To this end, he called for establishment of demonstration sites for herders and farmers.
According to him, the sites would provide a platform for the farmers and herders to be taught on best practices, thus driving knowledge to avoid conflict.
Yahaya also called for synergy between the federal and state governments in revitalising agricultural extension services in the country.
He said the Federal Government under the current administration was taking steps to revamp the system.
However, he noted that the state governments were not showing enough interest in spite of the fact that they are critical stakeholders.
“I think the time for us to revitalise agric extension is now and the states must key in.
“There must be synergy between the federal and state governments in terms of revamping extension because farming is done at the state and local government levels.
“The federal government is busy with provision of policy direction through its ministry of agriculture.
“We now have a Federal Department of Extension Service working in synergy with other associations like AESON and the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).
“We must commend RMRDC for their development and innovation. We now have cotton that produces over five tonnes per hectare.
“The research council has come with up tomatoes that can yield as high as 75 tonnes per hectare instead of the one that used to produce five to 10 tones per hectare. So we are moving.
“If we have all these discoveries in research institutes like RMRDC, and they are not communicated to the end users it is useless”, he said.
Noting that extension services were “comatose” at the state levels, Yahaya said extension workers were either lacking or not trained and equipped in many of the states.
According to him, many extension workers have not been trained since the World Bank withdrew its funding and support for the system about 30 years ago.
“We must champion the course and get the Nigeria Governors Forum to wake up to its responsibility to make sure they engage professionals in extension to help states to revitalise the system.
“The current statistics in Nigeria is one extension worker to over 3,000 farmers.
“In some instances, it is one extension worker to 5,000 farmers. How can they cope? And in reality, they don’t have logistics support.
“Before, they used to have vehicles, motorcycles, allowances, all kind of support to encourage them. Now, they are redundant .
“So we must provide them with logistics supports, capacities in terms of current thinking of agriculture.
“The level of capacity of those to deliver extension services are not up to farmers that are operating agriculture now,” he said.