The Bauchi State Government says it will retain some retiring agricultural extension workers, in its efforts to revitalise its agricultural sector.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Yakubu Kirfi, said this on Thursday in Bauchi, during the presentation of the 2018 agricultural sector budget analysis.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was organised by Fahimta Women and Youth Development Initiative (FAWOYDI) and Public Financing Agricultural Budget Committee of ActionAid Nigeria.
He said that the policy would affect agricultural extension workers who were expected to retire between 2017 and 2018.
Kirfi said that under the arrangement, the services of the extension workers would be extended by two to three years to allow them to train the youths.
“Those billed to retire between 2017 and 2018 will have their service years extended by two to three years to enable them to train young and unemployed graduates of agricultural institutions,’’ he said.
The commissioner described agricultural extension workers as the backbone of agriculture.
“It will be suicidal to abandon agriculture and these professionals, considering the important role of extension workers in guiding farmers on seed and inputs application for maximum yields, particularly in rural communities,’’ he said.
Kirfi recalled the experience of farmers when organic fertilisers were introduced to them in the Second Republic.
“Due to the non-involvement of extension workers, coupled with farmers’ ignorance of application methods of farm inputs, there was poor harvest in one particular year.
“But as soon as these professionals were brought in, the farmers witnessed bumper harvests in subsequent years,’’ he said. Besides, the commissioner urged women farmer groups to apply for agricultural loans.
He vouched for the ability of women to repay loans because of their perceived integrity.
Mrs Tabawa Atiku, leader of Fahimta Advocacy Team, expressed concern over the exit of agricultural extension workers from the services of Bauchi State Government. She also urged the government to accord priority to genuine women farmer groups because of their population.
“Women farmers are about 60 per cent of the workforce in agriculture, hence the need to create a direct budget line in the Ministry of Agriculture, targeting smallholder women farmers.
“The Bauchi State Government should also consider the allocation of power tillers to women farmers’ groups because the use of manual labour in ground tilling is energy-sapping.