Mr Afolabi Imoukhuede, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation and Youth Employment, has hailed the agriculture scheme in Anambra state as a model that should be replicated in other states.
He said this while reacting to how the N-Power volunteers in the state were being utilized to add value to the economy of the state and country.
According to him, the practice in Anambra is a big lesson to volunteers in other parts of the country.
“The lesson from Anambra state for us is really to showcase what we saw in the Agric Development Programme. I like the fact that there are three clear strategies they have set in place. One is the fact that they empower our N-Agro participants with the agronomy and the techniques and the technologies that they need to know. The second is that they also give them demonstration sites where they are able to practicalise all that they are being taught in theory”, he stressed.
“We saw fishery, crop farming and poultry and livestock and what have you. And the last but not the least is now the linkage of after they have learnt this and demonstrated this and linking it to community farming, the private farms, community farmers that the state themselves are supporting. And that of cause gives them the opportunity to access the markets and to commerce; that is very commendable in what we have seen with the N-Agro and complementarity with Anambra State Agriculture Development Programme.’’
According to Imoukhuede when the monitoring team carries out visits, it looks for models that work and showcase them and try and get every other state to copy best practice.
He said that when N-Agro was designed in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the ADP its intention was to ensure that it could achieve all the things seen in Anambra.
He said it was for the volunteers to get the knowledge and be able to go out there and impart knowledge to farmers adding that data was key as the M&E team saw the innovation with the Anambra Farmers’ Data Centre.
“That (data collection) is even one big thing that our N-Agro will be doing, that is why they are getting devices. To be able to go and register farmers and register their farms with coordinates and being able to use those devices to monitor maybe outbreak of diseases or pesticides on site”.
He recalled the experience the monitoring team had in Delta on the issue of Army worms’ infestation on maize farms.
He said that was very complementary to what the N-Power was doing and the ability to demonstrate it so that the volunteers themselves could become Agro-business people.
“I think that is the model that we should blow and replicate across Nigeria,’’ he emphasized.
Imoukhuede emphasized that N-Agro was his bet in the N-power, saying N-Power is a two-year volunteer programme where the volunteers are paid after which they are exited from the programme.
“I always say N-Agro is my bet because I believe that no one goes through N-Agro and will wonder what to do in the 25th month after the programme exits in the 24th month. The reason is that within the agric extension programme there is a dearth of extension officers in Nigeria. We see it in every state that we have gone; ADP is always heaving this sigh of relief; we saw the statistics that was even reeled out in Delta.That 1:800 is the FAO standard extension worker/farmer ratio; before the programme they were doing 1: 2000 and more farmers and now with N-Agro, they have come down to 1:141,” he noted.
“The point is whether we like it or not, both between the federal and the state, every state will like to make up the FAO standard in order to increase the agriculture extension. Clearly that opens up opportunities for the successful and serious N-Agro participants to be absorbed within this extension,’’ the Presidential aide said.
He recalled that one of the strong things the officials had pushed for every volunteer “is entrepreneurship to open their eyes to opportunities.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture of Anambra, Mr Leo Imoka, corroborated the need for synergy between states and Federal government in agriculture.
He said that was the best way to ensure food sufficiency in the country and export in line with the diversification agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The ADP technical adviser in the state, Mrs Ifenyinwa Azaka, hinted also that while an N-Agro youth planted 10,000 hectares of land in Nnewi, another raised six plots in Amawbia.
She added that others won a contract to plant 630 palm oil seeds in a private farm in Omor by virtue of the training they received and advised the rest to emulate their colleagues.