Why extension service is key to farmers

Monday September 17 2018

 

By Michael J. Ssali

Although about 75 per cent of households in Uganda are involved in agriculture and most of our exports are from agriculture, our farmers lack sufficient guidance in farming practices to develop the sector.
We provide free seed to farmers and we talk about food security and wealth creation.

We have not done much to fulfil the four-year-old Malabo Declaration pledge but we expect our farmers to increase production and to grow the economy.
Experts attending the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum in Kigali, Rwanda early this month observed that Africa’s food import bill of $35 billion is likely to rise to $110 billion by 2015, according to a press release dated September 7, 2018.

This is happening despite the fact that the continent holds 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land and 10 per cent of renewable fresh water resources.
Agriculture ministers from across the continent attended the function and during their ministerial roundtable meeting one of the resolutions they came up with was to increase extension service to farmers within their countries, besides providing them with modern machinery and farm implements.

Extension service officers are well trained agriculturists used to provide information and guidance to farmers. In these times of climate change, successful farming requires skilled labour.
Today’s African farmer must have some understanding of how to prevent crop diseases, what soil nutrients are essential and why he or she should use improved seed varieties.

They need guidance on how to use fertilisers and pesticides. Climate-smart agriculture must be done differently and farmers should be equipped with the right skills.
Extension offices will be expected to enlighten the farmers about new approaches in overcoming farming challenges including biotechnology.

For the farm products to be profitably marketed they have to be of good quality and farmers must be constantly guided to ensure best practices and outcomes.
Ghana’s minister of Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afrivie Akoto, told the ministers’ meeting, “When I took over as minister last year, we had only 1,600 extension workers of whom 80 per cent were due to retire. So I immediately recruited 1,000 graduates and this year I am recruiting 2,700 more.”

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