The Federal Government is to engage 30,000 graduates to serve as agriculture extension workers who will provide strategic support to farmers across the country. It also announced on Monday that it had empowered 20 young Nigerian farmers with an initial take off grant of N30m, adding that the fund was provided through the Bank of Agriculture.
Executive Secretary, National Agricultural Land Development Authority, Paul Ikonne, told journalists in Abuja that the graduates would be trained in agriculture extension services including the collection of soil samples and how to conduct soil tests.
He said the approval to engage the graduates was given by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), adding that the extension workers would be deployed across the country. Ikonne said, “Mr. President has given approval to engage over 30,000 graduates who would be engaged under the National Young Farmers Scheme.
“They will be trained intensively for two weeks on soil sample collection and soil tests, as well as other agriculture extension services.” He said the initiative was basically for graduates of agriculture and other related science courses, as participants would be given the required soil test kits and soil collection sample kits.
Prince Ikonne added that the graduates will have backgrounds in agriculture or sciences.
He explained that the employment is based on President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval and the official launch of the National Young Farmers Scheme.
He said the training is going to be free of charge for them, and they will be given soil test kits and the soil collection samples kits at the end of the training.
Speaking on the mode of selection, he said they will be selected by their state governments.
He further explained that farmers will be made to pay as low as N500 per sample collected, NALDA will shoulder the rest including soil test kits and the soil collection samples kits.
“Over the years, farmers go to the farm just do their normal thing, open the soil put their maize or their wheat without a soil test to ascertain the nutrient that the soil requires.
“The fertilizer dealers take advantage of that to sell all kinds of fertilizers to farmers at the end of the day the desired yield will not be achieved.
“We cannot achieve food security without understanding our soil, without getting our farmers to know what the soil requires.
“Extension service providers are one of the key services that we have been missing in farming generally.
“What this soil doctors will be doing, they will go to every farmland, meet farmers in their farms to conduct soil test first before any farming season in order to know what nutrient that the soil requires what type of fertilizer will the crop need, with that we will begin to engage in the best agricultural practices
“The President has mandated NALDA to make sure that our soils begin to yield maximum output and farmers begin to get their returns on investment,” he added.