As part of efforts to catalyse agricultural transformation in Enugu state, the state government has vowed to embrace digital tools being shared by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to strengthen its extension services and farmers’ empowerment programmes.
The Program Manager of the state Agricultural Development Program, Dr. Matthias Onu, gave the indication recently during a training on improved agronomic practices, gender and weed control in cassava and maize farming systems, organised for extension agents in the state.
The training, which was facilitated by IITA through its African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) , followed the meeting of commissioners of agriculture in IITA last year, where a similar commitment was made.
At least 40 extension workers drawn from different local governments in the state took part in the two-day theory and practical training sessions held at the Enugu State Cooperative College, Enugu.
The aim of the training was to empower extension workers with the tools to educate farmers on how to grow and double cassava/maize yield in their communities.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the training on Friday, March 13, Dr. Onu, who represented the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state, expressed gratitude to IITA for facilitating the training.
While welcoming the IITA team which was led by Godwin Atser, Digital Extension and Advisory Services Specialist; Dr. Onu said the training was important because the state had relatively few extension workers, a number not sufficient enough to serve the state’s farming population.
He then expressed hope that the training and digital extension tools participants would be exposed to would greatly increase the productivity of cassava and maize.
To my fellow extension workers, this is one of the best gifts you
have received in recent times. The training has been packaged having in
mind that you are very few in number. With your number you can’t do
much, but after what they’ll expose to you today, you stand a chance of
helping to double yield and productivity in cassava, maize and even rice
which Enugu is also known for.”
Onu, as well as some of the participants who spoke, expressed hope that some of the digital tools could be adapted for weed control in other crops like rice.
His words: “I am glad that this training is coming now because it will assist these few extension workers to reach more farmers more effectively using the digital tools you are going to unveil here.
Responding, Atser hailed the state government for its commitment to
agricultural development and organizing a training that will help
improve cassava and maize productivity in the state.
According to him, “Agriculture is one of the ways to engender development because it creates jobs, it creates peace and it reduces crimes. It is a major solution to the challenges we have as a country.”
He said the aim of the training, which is the product of a five-year research by IITA’s Cassava Weed Management Project and ACAI, was to “eliminate the pain and drudgery associated with farming, encourage young people to embrace agriculture, help farmers make more money and live well and be able to do other things with the time and resources they are able to save”
The two-day training covered land preparation, best agronomic practices, types of weeds, types of herbicides, herbicides application, calibration and safety; cassava maize intercropping tool and fertilizer intercropping tool. Other areas covered in the training include gender considerations, barriers and communication in farming systems, Akilimo and digital tools for knowledge dissemination to farmers.
Atser and Prof. John Oladeji, a gender expert with the Department of Agricultural Extension & Rural Development, University of Ibadan facilitated the training. Apart from Onu, officials of the state Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, including the ministry’s Director of Agricultural services, Asogwa Clement, were in attendance.