The Federal Republic of Nigeria instituted the National Economic Transformation Agenda whose aim was to diversify the economy from reliance on oil, assure food security and create jobs. It was in line with this, that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development developed Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) with an aim to promote agribusiness, attract private sector investment in agriculture, reduce post-harvest losses, add value to local agricultural produce, develop rural infrastructure and enhance access of farmers to financial services and markets. To accomplish this aim of ATA, Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program Phase 1 (ATASP-1) was later developed. ATASP-1 was set to create over 120,000 jobs along the value chains of the priority crops of rice, sorghum and cassava for Nigeria’s teeming population particularly youths and women, and to add 20 million metric tons of these key food commodities to domestic food supply of the country per annum. This is set to be achieved through Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and so also the resuscitation of our decayed irrigation schemes. These will no doubt accord many farming households the opportunity of producing twice in a year.
Bida-Badeggi Staple Crop Processing Zone is the only processing zone being managed by a state while others have two (2). The program covers seven (7) local governments out of the twenty five (25) that made up the state; these seven (7) local government areas are: Agaie, Lapai, Katcha, Gbako, Lavun, Mokwa and Wushishi.
The inception of the zone that would have being in year 2015 came up in February, 2016, with nine member team known as the Processing Zone Implementation Team (PZIT) comprising of Zonal Program Coordinator, Zonal Irrigation/Rural Infrastructure Engineer, Zonal Civil Engineer, Zonal Agribussiness/Marketing Specialist, Zonal Outreach Specialist, Zonal Gender/Social Development Specialist, Zonal Program Accountant, Zonal Procurement Specialist and Zonal Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist.
RECRUITMENT OF EXTENSION AGENTS
The success of any agricultural program, ATASP-1 inclusive, depends on complete liberation of inputs like seeds and fertilizer application and so also other agricultural practice from rudiment to a more acceptable practice of agriculture; which can only be achieved through proper agricultural information dissemination to the grassroots farmers by village agricultural extension agents. Extension Agents (EAS) are very important tools of the Outreach component of this program.
Applications were invited from interested persons for the post of Extension Agents (EAs) through the chairmen of the seven (7) beneficiary Local Government Areas (LGAs) and the Managing Director (MD) of Niger State Agricultural and Mechanization Development Authority (NAMDA). Submitted application were evaluated and shortlisted for interview based on their qualifications, years of experience, able to speak local language, membership to professional body and local government of origin. Thereafter, the shortlisted candidates were interviewed on their qualification, proficiency, communication skill, general knowledge, appearance and physical fitness. For geographical spread, the candidates that scored highest among other candidates from the same local government areas were selected and submitted to the national office for “no-objection” and ratification. They have since been engaged and motorcycle has been given to each and every one of them to ease transportation into the hinterland.
TRAINING OF EXTENSION AGENTS BY THE COMMODITY SPECIALISTS
The three commodity specialist – AfricaRice, ICRISAT and IITA are to train ATASP-1 recruited Extension Agents of the four (4) ATASP-1 Zones (Adani-Omor, Bida-Badeggi, Kano-Jigawa and Kebbi-Sokoto). This has since been concluded.
The Zone has presently profiled seven thousand eight hundred and twenty six (7,826) farmers in the seven (7) Local Government Areas (LGAs). These farmers were profiled based on commodity of interest (Rice, Cassava and Sorghum) from 12th May to 2nd June, 2016, which was immediately followed up by a verification exercise to authenticate the initial result obtained from the first exercise. The verification exercise shows that two thousand and eighty four (2,084) rice farmers were profiled, five hundred and eleven (511) cassava farmers then two thousand two hundred and thirty one (2,231) farmers were profiled for sorghum. This exercise enable the Zone to have authentic data of farmers for easy of intervention in terms of training and input distribution.