International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have been appreciated by Benue State Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr Timothy Ijir, for their efforts to make hunger history in the state.
IITA in partnership with the IFAD-funded Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), flagged off a workshop in Makurdi, the state capital, tagged Training of Extension Agents and Advisory Providers under the Zero Hunger Project.
This was done recognizing that agricultural extension agents serve as the critical drivers of information dissemination for farmers.
The agric commissioner was full of praises for the two international agencies for organising the workshop to train extension workers on the best way to go about cassava farming.
He was represented by the Director for Agricultural Services, Thomas Unongo, who urged participants to impart the acquired knowledge to local farmers in their various communities to help improve cassava production in the state.
Reiterating this, Permanent Secretary at the state Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Margret Ikpe, urged participants to take the message from the workshop back to farmers and be good advisors in helping farmers achieve better yields.
Representing the Zero Hunger Project Lead, Debo Akande, the Project MEL Manager Oyewale Abioye presented the result of the Training Needs Assessment Survey conducted by the team. He said, “The survey revealed that 75% of the extension officers are women and 60% are youths between 18 and 35 years.
This suggests that the state has an active extension workforce that can be mentored by the older generation to retain institutional memory to improve the agricultural space because extension workers are the engine room of any kind of transformation that the State Government aims to have.”
The survey result informed the training content—the Importance of the Cassava Seed System, Six Steps to Cassava Weed Management and Best Planting Practices, Safe Use of Herbicides, Digital tools in Cassava Production, Identification and Management of Cassava Pests and Diseases, Business Case for Cassava Seed Production, Cassava Seed Field certification by NASC, Record Keeping, Data Management, and Monitoring and Evaluation.
Project Manager of a GIZ-funded Cassava-Maize value chain project in IITA, Godwin Atser, who facilitated the training on six steps to cassava weed management, enlightened the extension workers on good cassava varieties for planting.
He advised the extension workers to encourage the use of good seeds and extend the knowledge acquired from the program to local farmers in their area of operations.
Zero Hunger Project Training Manager Bolanle Olorode, in her presentation on cassava pest and disease identification and management, highlighted the need for farmers to adopt proper sanitary measures and use improved cassava varieties that are disease resistant.
She charged the extension workers to make good use of the knowledge to bring about yield increase to impact the lives of local farmers.
The VCDP State Programme Coordinator (SPC) Emmanuel Igbaukum encouraged the participants to use the training to improve their lives and train more seed entrepreneurs so that cassava production will no longer be a problem in Benue State.
At the end of the workshop, the extension officers thanked IITA and IFAD-VCDP for what they learned and promised to facilitate knowledge transfer to Benue cassava farmers.