Nigeria has the lowest ratio of agricultural extension workers to farmers in Africa, a new report has said.
The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) 2020 Report ranked Rwanda as the country with the highest ratio of extension workers to farmers, followed by Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Mali.
Nigeria is at the bottom of the index, alongside Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Uganda and Kenya. Nigeria’s performance in 2019, the study year, was still worse than two years earlier.
Nigeria has struggled to reform its agricultural sector to reduce dependence on crude oil and gas. In March 2021, the government announced it will hire 75,000 additional extension service workers as part of efforts to increase food production.
The Ministry of Agriculture said there were 14,000 extension officers as of 2019, of which 6,000 were in the public sector and the remaining 8,000 were privately employed.
The government said the country’s agricultural extension system has declined over the years as a result of decreased funding, policy changes, reduced man-power and lack of interest of young people in agricultural entrepreneurship, Vanguard reported.
The 2020 TASAI report, published in October, focused on the economic performance in Nigeria’s formal seed sector. The report said a well-functioning agricultural extension services is critical to the successful adoption of improved seed by smallholder farmers.
To produce the report, researchers tracked the average number of agricultural households served by an extension officer.
Of 95 seed companies surveyed in Nigeria, 25 or 26 per cent employed extension services in 2019, lower than 34 seed companies that said they employed extension services in 2017.
The 25 seed companies surveyed said they employed a total of 188 extension officers (146 males and 42 females).
The report assumed a baseline of one extension officer to 7500 farmers.
“The lower this ratio, the better access farmers have to expert information and advice on how to access and use improved seed and other relevant agricultural technologies,” the report said.
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