Abuja — Government has promised to boost agricultural research institutions with patent rights on seeds multiplication to improve and increase food production.
This was made known by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohmmed Nanono, at the 2019 Farmers Field Day and Seed Fair, held in Sheda, Abuja, which was organised by the National Agricultural Seed Council, NASC, in collaboration with Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria, SEEDAN.
Nanono said it has become imperative for the government to make that move in order to counter adulterated and fake seeds producers in the country who have made it difficult for farmers to access quality seeds, hence there will be supply of adequate and quality seeds to farmers along the various value chains.
He also acknowledged that despite lack of funds for research institutes they were still committed to carry out their mandate in developing the seed industry by coming up with improved seeds for farmers and food production.
He further stated that domestication of research works is very paramount and imperative, hence seed multiplication for farmers' access and application, and also address the issue of adulterated seeds that will build capacity of the research institutes in the country.
He said: "With about 70 million farmers in the country, agriculture holds the key to the development of the country and agriculture also the hold key to the economic and political stability of the country and so whatever needs to be done to promote agriculture must be held in high esteem.
"I will also allow some group of people to come into seed production in this country. Apparently most of our research institutes is doing a good job and producing good foundation seeds but the seed multiplication companies are being adulterated and at the end of the day the research is rendered useless when it gets to farmers.
"We must rationalize research institutes and make it more cost effective and more productive if we are going to achieve our goal. I am going to give them authority to produce and distribute seeds under their own patent so that there would be intense competition in the seed production in the country."
However, the Minister decried the low number of 14, 000 agric extension workers as against a farming population of 70 million, as without a commiserate number of extension workers, this vital aspect of knowledge transfer of modern agricultural practices the aim and use of quality seeds will be defeated and farmers need knowledge on good agricultural practices for better performance and productivity.
"The standard is one extension agents to 25 farmers, but if you work out the arithmetic you will understand why we are in this mess. It is the role of the private institutions to support government in providing this extension services."
Earlier, the Director General, NASC, Dr. Philip Olusegun Ojo, said the Council has been on its toes to ensure the best of seeds are delivered to farmers as all is been done currently to achieve the long awaited green revolution in diversifying the economy, which food will be available, accessible and affordable including job and wealth creation that would reduce poverty as well.
Ojo also maintained that the Council will not relent in engaging state governments, to step up regulatory activities, public enlightenment and sensitization programmes in the seed market of major cities.
Similarly, the NASC boss who was earlier represented by Director, Seed Certification and Quality Control, Dr Ishiak Khalid, at the Symposium marking the 2019 Farmers Field Day and Seed Fair, disclosed that the Council has developed rice seed varieties that are flood resistant.
Khalid explained that the essence of the Symposium which has drawn out different stakeholders to attend this year will come up with solutions that will meet the demands of farmers.
"At the end of the day we are thinking of varieties that will increase productivity per unit area. There are two things when to increase agricultural production. Some people will say you have to open more lands. That is necessarily not the answer because there are challenges.
"The thinking should be how do we manage our soils very well and bring in good varieties that have high productivity per unit area. If somebody can get 12 tonnes of maize per unit area it saves more than opening up more hectares and not gets high productivity.
"We have developed varieties that will tolerate flood which has been a national challenge, where flood submerges field but some of these varieties can remain in water for two weeks and when the water cede the farmer can still harvest something from the field
"We are coming out with resolutions that will help the farmer which they will come out with their choices of varieties that would improve and increase their yield and we do know that when the farmer has increased productivity it comes with a lot of economic benefits and food security will be boosted.
He also added that, "Already we are documenting seeds by the producers and we will ensure they have met the minimum quality standards ahead of the dry season farming."
However, the Executive Director, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, NAERLS, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Prof Khalid Othman, decried poor attention given to the 37 Agricultural Development Programme offices across the country including agricultural extension services.
Prof Othman said: "The 37 State Agricultural Development Programme, ADP, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, are supposed to be working directly with the farmers and they are employees of the various state governments.
"Unfortunately, none of the states are supporting these ADPs and as a result most of these extensions at advanced levels where the farmers are supposed to be using this technology are actually not getting the services effectively because of the poor support the state governments are giving to the ADPs and that is really the major challenge."
According to him to tackle the challenge they have come up with the National Agriculture Helpline Centre,.
"We at NAERLS when see this big challenge and we realized that whatever technology has been generated if the farmers are not aware of such technology there is no way they can be put to practice. What we now use to innovate is what we call National Agriculture Helpline Centre, NAHC, which is telephone and internet based, which we can reach out to the farmers and the farmers likewise without going through the extension officers who are government employees.
"We started this in the last two years, which was commissioned by the former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, and this year the present Minister, Mohammed Nanono, have visited the centre and seen our challenges and promised to support us which he has started and the centre is working effectively", he stated.