By Steve Agbota
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has ordered federal universities of agriculture to henceforth concentrate on practical training as their area of competence.
According to him, more than 60 per cent of the curriculum should be on practical, 20 per cent on theory and 20 per cent on research.
Ogbeh said it was time to build the next generation of farmers who will take over the farms and food production. He also decried the failure of universities of agriculture to produce graduates that engage in farming as a profession.
The Minister stated this while speaking recently at Otukpo, Benue State, during the distribution of stems of improved varieties of cassava to farmers. The programme is implemented by the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) Nigeria, a World Bank-funded programme, working under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). The cassava stem distribution is one of the three projects WAAPP is implementing in Benue State in collaboration with the University of Agriculture, Makurdi (UAM).
Reacting to the minister’s position, Professor John Adisa Ayodele, who represented the Vice Chancellor of UAM, disclosed that the university has been producing graduates who are farmers. He added that the institution is poised to put the vast land belonging to the university to use in support of boosting food production as well as engaging the students to practise what is being learnt.
While distributing the stems to farmers, Chief Ogbeh, praised rural farmers for the prominent role they play in the social security of the country and also affirmed that they feed the teeming population in Nigeria.
He noted that the rural farmers do a lot to forestall food insecurity and food crisis, and therefore deserved government’s support. Furthermore, he implored students in Universities of Agriculture to be agents of change in the sector.
National Coordinator of WAAPP Nigeria, Mr. James Apochi, explained that the cassava stem distribution project is to stimulate domestic production of cassava, provide employment for the youth, boost rural economy and reduce hunger and poverty.
Speaking on behalf of beneficiaries, Mr. Oche Abor, said, with the intervention, the government and WAAPP Nigeria have restored the farmers’ hope. He called on the Federal Government to intensify mechanization, as the farmers are ready to feed the nation and Africa.