By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
With the bid to improve farmers’ techniques in agribusiness, especially crop farming, the National Agricultural Land Development Authority, NALDA, Monday, graduated 269 soil doctors and agricultural extension workers in Borno State.
The Executive Director, NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne, said the trainees went through two weeks of intensive training under NALDA, in collaboration with the Borno State Government.
Ikonne, expressed optimism that the entry of the trainees into the Nigerian agricultural system will address issues associated with soil testing and food quality.
The trainees were graduates with science-related educational backgrounds and corps members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, were awarded certificates, provided with soil test kits to collect soil sample, soil testing and extension services.
He said: “It is expected that the injection of soil doctors and extension service providers into the Nigerian agricultural system will correct the anomalies of non-soil testing so that farming becomes healthy for the environment, humanity and quality food production.
“The first set that has completed intensive two weeks programme in Borno State, which will be representing the North East.
“This programme is to inject well-trained soil doctors and extension service providers to assist farmers, especially in soil test in order to ascertain the true nutrients our crops will need.
“The rainy season is around the corner and we have to do the needful before the rain comes so that our yield during this wet season will be what every Nigerian will see and appreciate the effort of Mr President towards achieving food security.
“The importance of soil doctors is something you cannot do without because they are very important like a human being who requires medical check-up or who before going for treatment will need to run a test so also the soil. It is important that farmers understand the soil in order to know what to feed the soil with.
“The practice has always been farmers going to farm, open the land, and plant whatever they want to without knowing what the soil requires.
“So is very important we begin to practice proper agricultural methods of farming so that we will be able to know the type of fertilizer that the crop will require or the type of the crop that soil will also need so we don’t plant what the soil will not be able to take in order to give you the maximum yield.
“So injecting the soil doctors and extension service providers into our agric space is a big plus and that goes to show Mr President’s passion to achieve food security.
“Now they have been trained we are going to introduce them into the system, reach out to farmers so that farmers will know that their services are available; they will go to every farm to support the farm by conducting soil test and advising them on how to go about their farming activities.”
The Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum, commended NALDA for giving the State opportunity to train and build capacity of young and energetic graduates in soil testing and extension services.
Zulum who was elated said it was the first time the head of a federal agency would approach him with such intervention since he assumed office.
He further stated that no other state has Borno’s agriculture potentials including water resources, and irrigation engineers are being urged to design structures that could handle the natural supply of water.
He assured that his administration will keep working towards improving food supply and agriculture value chains in the State and also to ensure the nation and the state attain food sustainability, which the State has a total landmass of over 76, 000 square kilometers with over 70 per cent of it is arable land.
He said, “This effort by NALDA and her development partners by training and providing well-designed soil testing kits to one thousand youths shall provide an effective and adequate number of experts on soil, to our farmers in time, for Borno to engage in scientific cultivation which should be anchored on sustainable development.”
However, the Governor pointed challenges faced by the State’s agriculture sector include lack of adequate extension workers, poor funding, inadequate logistics services for field staff, which he appealed to NALDA to provide extensive support services and other services to boost agriculture.
One of the trainees, Usman Alhaji-mala, said, “We are ready to go out and meet the farmers and introduce the new initiative to them so they can improve their production, it is very relevant, we were trained perfectly on how to help the farmers and I am sure it will make them happy.”
A corps member, Fati Abdulkadir, said, “It is a great privilege for me to be amongst the soil doctors. We have been exposed to the theory and practical aspects of the programme.”