Amidst challenges facing agricultural extension services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has said the use of ICT remains an alternative option going forward.
The Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mrs. Karima Babangida, pointed out that providing extension services to famers has become costly and challenging owing to several reasons.
Speaking at the opening of a workshop organised for the South-west extension workers in the yam value chain in Ijebu Ife, Ogun State, she said: “Farmers are geographically dispersed in difficult-to-reach places; some of their information requirements are highly localised and large-scale extension provision faces several governance challenges.”
According to her, ICT applications have the potential to address some of these challenges adding compared to face-to-face extension, they are cheaper as they do not rely on costly and time-consuming travelling.
Babangida said: “It allows for more timely and regular provision of farming advice to farmer’s in their local dialects.”
She added that a holistic approach to agricultural extension service goes beyond technology transfer for major crops, adding that it also included enhancing the management and technical skills of farm households relating to production, and postharvest management of high-value crops like yam; sustainable natural resource management; family health care and nutrition.
She said: “As you are aware, the restriction of movement of people, goods and services has negatively impacted on food supply chains, incomes and livelihoods in the country.
“Since effective extension service delivery is key to boosting agricultural productivity, increasing food security, improving rural livelihoods, and promoting agriculture as an engine of pro-poor economic growth, it become necessary to organise this workshop.
Speaking at the occasion, the Programme Manager, Deola Lordbanjou, said COVID-19 had limited the ability of extension workers to meet the needs of farmers.
He added: “You will all agree with me that under COVID -19, extension workers have not been able to meet with farmers as regular as they should.
“But with better technology, this can be done without putting anybody at risk. Again, yam production has gone through a lot of transformation in recent time and extension workers need to acquaint themselves of the processes in order to advise the farmers properly.”