By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The National Agricultural Lands Development Authority, NALDA, Monday, disclosed move to engage and train 30, 000 graduates on soil testing and extension services under the Young Farmers Scheme, YFS, to boost farmers’ productivity in achieving food security.
This was made known by the Executive Secretary, NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne, at a media conference held in Abuja.
According to Ikonne, the graduates to be trained are those with agricultural and science background, and the training will last for two weeks, which will soon commence.
He added that State Governors are already sending names of graduates with the requisite qualifications, and at the end of the two weeks of intensive training they will be equipped with soil and sample collection kits which they will use for their job.
He said: “Under the Young Farmers Scheme, NALDA is to engage over 30, 000 graduates who will be trained on how to collect soil samples, conduct a soil tests, and render extension services to farmers.
“The President is fully out to achieve food security in Nigeria and anything that as do to with farmers concerns him, and has mandated NALDA to make sure our soil begin to yield maximum outputs and farmers begin to make their returns on investment.
“And we want to let Nigerians know that we are taking another step in the right direction in achieving food security.
“They will be given an App that would help collect real-time data that would help us in future planning to know each direction to go in terms of assisting farmers.
“Our intention is to work with state governments in order to draw these graduates who have their backgrounds in agriculture or sciences. We are not doing online registration.
“The State Governments will come up with the list, and some of the State Governors have submitted their list and waiting for the training to commence, and we are going to do the training in batches in order to observe the COVID-19 protocols, so training will take 200 people so that we have enough space to take people.
“We are looking at those with a background in agric and what we are doing is conducting a test that would be easy for them to catch up and it is going to be for two weeks of intensive training, and it will be easier for us to train those with the agric background.”
Meanwhile, he assured that modalities have been worked out on how they will be paid.
He also explained that the authority is in partnership with relevant organizations that would also build the capacity of these graduates, “We are working with Nigeria Institute of Soil Sciences, we have had series of meeting with them and they are happy to welcome this move.
“According to the provost he said this has been the missing link and they lack the manpower and capacity to cover it, and NALDA coming up with this programme gives them hope and they are glad about it, and they are ready and willing to partner with us.”
He also explained that the way and manner farmers carry out cultivation of their crops will experience a change, which fertilizer dealers take advantage over them without giving assistance to farmers in terms of soil testing for the appropriate fertilizer to be applied for better yield.
“Over the years farmers go their farmers and just do the normal things; open the soil, put their maize or wheat without soil test as pertain the nutrients the soil requires.
“The fertilizer dealers take advantage of that to sell all kinds of fertilizers to farmers and at the end of the day, the desired yield will not be achieved. But what these soil doctors will be doing include going to every farmland to meet farmers in their farms to conduct a soil test before any farming season in order to know what nutrient the soil requires, what type of fertilizer do the crop needs and with that, we will begin to engage in the best agricultural practices”, he stated.
He also said that part of the services expected from the graduates includes extension services, which have been a major challenge in Nigeria’s food production and food security over the years.
“Extension services provider is one of the key services that we have been missing in farming generally. So these graduates that will be trained will engage in that as well; advising farmers if there are challenges or issues they will take the samples and run them to the laboratory in order to know the problem.
“When leaves of vegetable turning yellow there will need to take them to the lab and conduct random soil sample test so that farmers would begin to get value for their effort and time.
“The training is going to be free of charge for them and they will be equipped at the end of the training. They will be given soil test kits and that for soil sample collection, which they will be fully equipped to go to the farm and assist farmers”, he said.
However, according to the NALDA boss, farmers will be made to pay N500 while NALDA shoulders the rest cost for the services, which he explained that the N500 is to enable them to bear replace tools used for testing, sample collection, and others.
“The farmers will be made to pay as low as N500 per soil sample collected and NALDA will shoulder the rest.
“The reagent they use in testing the soil will be replaced with the N500 farmers will pay. The most important thing the farmer will be happy and the person conducting the test will be happy”, he added.