By James Emejo
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to immediately engage over 30,000 young graduates with backgrounds in agriculture and sciences to be trained on soil science in a major push to boost food security in the country.
Specifically, the graduates will be schooled in collection of soil samples as well as conduct soil tests and render extension services to farmers.
The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive of NALDA), Mr. Paul Ikonne, disclosed this at a briefing with journalists Monday in Abuja.
He described the move as another step in the right direction the government in achieving food security in the country.
He said Buhari remained fully committed to achieving food security in the country adding the president is seriously interested in “anything that has to do with farmers”.
Ikonne said Buhari had mandated NALDA to ensure that the soil begins to yield maximum output and farmers begin to get their returns on investment.
He pointed out that through the landmark initiative, in partnership with the Nigerian Institute of Soil Science, farmers will only be required to pay as low as N500 per sample collected adding that “NALDA will shoulder the rest.”
He said the initiative was being undertaken under the National Young Farmers’ Scheme, which was recently launched by the president.
The NALDA boss further explained that proper understanding of the soil and farmlands by farmers will “give Nigeria the desired achievement in food security”.
He said:”We cannot achieve achieve food security without understanding our soil and without getting our farmers to know what the soil requires.
“Over the years, farmers go to the farm to just do their normal thing – open the soil, put their maize or wheat without soil test to ascertain the nutrients that the soil requires.
“The fertiliser dealers take advantage of that to sell all kinds of fertilisers to farmers and at the end of the day, the desired yields would not be achieved.”
However, he said:”But what these soil doctors would be doing is that they will go every farm land and meet farmers in their farms to conduct soil test first before any farming season in order to know what nutrients the soil requires or what type of fertiliser would the crop need.”
Ikonne said the measures will help the country begin to engage in the best agricultural practices going forward as well as strengthen extension services providers who remained one of the key services that had been missing in farming generally.