Globally, food security has become an issue that raises concern especially in recent times with its attendant consequences in the form of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, inflation.
Recently, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said about 19. 4 million people would face food insecurity across Nigeria between June and August, 2022.
It is also estimated that food crisis in Nigeria would affect 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
The report also noted that about 14. 4 million people, including 385, 000 IDPs in 21 states and the FCT were already hit by food crisis as at May, 2022.
Analysts attribute the current food crises in Nigeria to the neglect of small scale farming and over emphasis of cash crops production and the oil sector.
Indeed, the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) were established in 1972 across the federation in order to bring about agricultural programmes and policies closer to small scale farmers in the rural areas.
It is on record that the success of the pilot scheme of the programme in few states led to its adoption and expansion nationwide by 1984.
The ADPs undertake all possible measures including partner relevant organisations to ensure timely and adequate supply of quality inputs and services, such as fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, agricultural implements to rural farmers.
Need for proper funding
Stakeholders advocate improved funding of ADPs in order to boost food production and escape from the current food crisis.
They opined that the viability of ADPs depend largely on the strength of extension delivery system, therefore stressed the need for government at all levels to recruit more extension agents to sustain education of small scale farmers on how to use the farm inputs made available to them.
“They need to be properly informed of the introduction of new improved crops and seedlings, different kinds of fertilisers and their uses as well as timeliness of use, storage systems under which different post- harvest farm produce can survive over a relatively long period of time,” they opined.
Mr Emmanuel Alanana, chairman, Programme Managers Forum of Nigeria says the role of ADPs in Nigeria is largely about extension delivery system which targets small scale farmers to ensure food sustainability and security.
Alanana asserted that small scale farmers who constituted larger population of farmers in Nigeria are the ones feeding the country.
Alanana who is also the programme manager of Nasarawa State Agriculture Development Programme said ADPs have been facing many challenges.
He listed them as poor funding, inadequate staff, lack of operational vehicles to ease movement of extension agents, shortage of extension agents across the states.
“On an ideal situation, one extension agent is supposed to work with 800 farmers or at most 1,000 farmers, but today as I speak to you now, the gap is so wide that one extension agent is working with about 15,000 to 20,000 farmers, so efficiency is not there.
“Other challenges are lack of funding and mobility; in those days as long as you are an extension agent, you are entitled to mobility, but today we are finding it difficult because all these things are lacking.
“For Nigeria to overcome the current food challenges, both federal and states governments have to move quickly and give more attention to agriculture, particularly funding ADPs,” he said.
He called on the federal government to collaborate with state governments to formulate policies to reinvigorate the ADPs and also regularly make inputs
available to them.
“I’m calling on the federal and the state governments to fund ADPs, employ extension workers and provide mobility for them to ease their movement,” he appealed.
Mrs Grace Ede, Nasarawa State ADP director of extension stressed that extension delivery system is the core mandate of ADPs.
According to her, ADPs cannot exist without extension workers to carry out extension delivery function.
Ede said Nasarawa ADP recently partnered United Nations Development Programme with the assistance of the state government to distribute farm inputs to 400 farmers who were affected by farmers and herders crises in the state.
”Extension delivery system in Nasarawa state has been facing a lot of challenges, ranging from inadequate staff to mobility; we are supposed to have at least 200 extension agents, but I as speak to you now, we have just about 60 or thereabout extension workers; this is inadequate to function optimally.’’
Ede recalled that ADP’s last recruitment in the state was during the administration of Aliyu Akwe-Doma between 2007 and 2011 where 150 workers were recruited.
He noted that since then, there was no employment again till date.
Ede, while commending Gov Abdullahi Sule for various support extended to ADP, appealed to the state government to employ more workers as it would enable ADP to discharge its core mandate of extension delivery system effectively.
Mr Nuhu Oshafu, Nasarawa state commissioner for agriculture and water resources says the state is leaving no stone unturned to ensure food security.
He said that the state government recently distributed farm implements and inputs at subsidised rate to farmers for both dry and wet seasons farming.