Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh on Saturday distributed 370 motorcycles to extension workers to improve their efficiency and ensure quality service delivery to farmers in the country.
The motorcycles were given to the extension officers as a soft loan at 50 percent discount.
The minister also inaugurated the National Farmer Help Line (NFHL) Centre, to facilitate effective communication between extension workers and farmers across the country.
Ogbeh said that Nigeria must diversify her economy to overcome shocks from oil price fluctuations, adding that Nigeria has abundant natural resources and must tap them.
He said Nigeria’s diversification policy must help the country to withstand fiscal shocks, combat monetary instability and provide employment opportunities for the populace.
To achieve this, the minister said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the inauguration of four special committees, including the committee on Revitalisation of Agricultural Extension Services in Nigeria.
Ogbeh decried that extension services in the country had declined due to the non-availability of World Bank loans from the early part of the year 2000.
“In an effort to re-engineer extension service delivery in the country, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has decided to tackle the issue from the foundation. One of such fundamental issues is the provision of mobility to the extension agents in the State’s Agricultural Development Programmes (ADP) in all states of the federation,” the minister stated.
He said practice had shown that motorcycles were the most efficient means of transportation for agricultural extension workers, hence the need to provide the workers with the motorcycles.
On his part, the Director, National Agriculture Extension and Research Liaison, NAERLS, Prof. Mohammed Othman-Khalid listed challenges impeding research to include late disbursement of funds and outdated research facilities.
Othman-Khalid noted that the institute had trained about 30,000 youths under the N-Power scheme, as well as provided assistance to farmers to obtain N100 million loans in 2016/2017, which had been fully repaid.
Director, Extension Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Karima Babangida, lamented the extension worker-farmer ratio which stood at 1:10,000 and 1:25,000 in some states.
She said that 10 motorcycles would be given to each ADP which would be distributed to the agents in the states.
The director said the motorcycles distribution was being launched in all the six geopolitical zones across the country, urging beneficiaries to put them to good use to improve productivity.
On the farmers’ helpline, she said the ministry would provide facilities in all the zonal centers in the six geo-political zones, to assist farmers through the National Farmer Help Line.
The NFHL has the shortcode 1422 for farmers to have easy access to information.