Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has called on the Federal Government to institutionalise a private sector led approach to improving coverage of extension services in the country.
To achieve this, AGRA in partnership with stakeholders in the agricultural sector, have commenced the development of a framework for the institutionalisation of private sector led extension services, tagged: Community Based Advisor (CBA).
CBA is aimed at increasing the number of extension agents in the country as well as complementing the government’s efforts in providing extension agents for work, and also create jobs for youths.
AGRA’s Programme Officer Extension and Capacity Building, Qureish Noordin, during a side event organised by AGRA at the sixth Africa-Wide Agricultural Extension Week in Abuja, said they aim to find a way the CBA’s can be institutionalised and make sure that they are recognised both by the government, communities and private sector.
The side event is themed: ‘Institutionalisation and Sustainability of Private Sector Led Extension Approach (Community Based Advisors).’
He said 90 per cent of countries in sub-Saharan Africa have a big challenge in terms of extension workers. He noted that the ratio of one officer to farmer ideally should be one to 500, but in most countries, it is one to 2000 or 10,000.
Noordin said AGRA trained government officials together with its implementing partners and the private sector on what is called a private sector led approach using the CBA.
“So, once the government officers have been trained, they go out there together with the communities, set criteria, which they use to identify and select individuals. Once they are selected, they are given the training in terms of good agronomic practices and extension approaches, as they grow, they are also given training on marketing, post-harvest management and others, then they link with other partners.
“They are not paid, they generate their own income, they become agents of seed companies, agro-dealers and off-takers and they make commission out of that, but the government has to be involved. Once the government comes in and their officials are trained, then they have the capacity to take it out there, because the good thing is that they don’t have to pay these CBAs because they generate their own income”, he said,” he stated.
He said AGRA sees this model as one of the main processes through which African governments can help enhance the efficiency of the extension system.
Noordin however, said the side event is mainly looking at how AGRA and the private sector can institutionalise the CBA and make sure that they are recognised both by the government, communities and private sector.
He said they also hope to get ideas from different countries, generate these models and then the government can institutionalise and certify the CBAs, give them ideas and make sure they have the correct information they give to farmers.
CEO of Extension Africa, Tajudeen Yahaya, said the government alone cannot provide the kind of extension in terms of the number of the extension agents needed in Nigeria, hence there is need for private sector players to come in.
He said currently in Nigeria, there is one extension agent to 10,000 farmers and by standard it should be one extension agent to 500 farmers or maximum 800 farmers.