Nigeria@61: Dearth of extension workers, poor investment bane of agric sector – Farmer
Alhaji Musa Arab, a large-scale rice farmer in Gombe State, has blamed the slow progress in agriculture sector development since independence on poor investment and the dearth of extension officers.
Arab stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday ahead of the country’s 61st Independence anniversary on Oct 1.
He told NAN that over time and since the discovery of crude oil, the agriculture sector had been relegated to the background and gradually neglected.
He said that in spite of the neglect and poor funding of the sector, agriculture to date, remained the largest employer of labour in the country and on yearly basis, contributes to the county’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Arab also observed that the abandonment of cash crops for food crops affected the economy of the country negatively.
“In those days, we had farmers who focused on raw-material-based agriculture like cocoa, rubber, cotton, and groundnut and export same outside as well as feed the many industries in the country.
“Today many farmers are cultivating only food crops to boost food security and prevent hunger; how many of the farmers are cultivating cotton and rubber on large scales as before?” he said.
The rice farmer attributed to the dearth of industries in the country and the ever-growing population that needed food to the gradual shift from raw-material-based agriculture to food-based agriculture.
He, however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari- led administration for “sincerely investing in agriculture and returning it to the prestigious stage that attracts more people into farming.
“We never knew agriculture was this lucrative until Mr President created that pathway through anchor borrowers loan, border closing initiative and eat-what-you-grow policy, amongst others.
“Today, we have started seeing the return of rice pyramid; this is what we are talking about. We must genuinely and deliberately put money into developing the sector and assisting genuine farmers,” he said.
Arab appealed to the Federal Government to check the diversion of loans to fake farmers, subsidise inputs and implements, re-introduce marketing boards and upgrade storage facilities across the country.
He also appealed to the government at all levels to engage more extension officers that would penetrate rural communities and teach farmers the modern techniques of farming and the need to use improved seed varieties.