The National Universities Commission (NUC) has approved the accreditation of Sasakawa Agricultural Extension Programme in Nigerian universities.
From empirical studies, one of the major challenges of agricultural development in most African countries, including Nigeria, has been found to be that of a weak agricultural extension system. This is exacerbated by lack of opportunities for in-service training for field extension staff; and the lack of relevant and appropriate training and orientation of the extension personnel, who even have the opportunity of in-service “qualification” training at tertiary institutions.
It was in recognition of these deficiencies and to boost field experience in the top echelon of extension service, that the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), funded by the Nippon Foundation launched the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) programme in1993, with a special innovative curriculum, and its pilot programme was implemented in Ghana, in collaboration with Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, a United States-based non-profit NGO.The curriculum includes sufficient pragmatic and hands-on experiential methods.
With the NUC’s nod, the programme, initiated would now be mainstreamed into universities’ curricula to facilitate the production of graduates and postgraduates in science and agricultural extension.
Before the NUC endorsement, the SAFE extension programme had been running in five universities, including Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Bayero University, Kano; University of Ilorin; Adamawa State University, Mubi, and Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto.
Sasakawa takes full responsibility of funding and providing logistic to universities to run the programme for the initial four years, after which the institutions take ownership of the programme.
Speaking at press conference in Kano, the Country director of SAA, Prof. Sani Miko, said with this development, Nigeria has now joined eight countries where the practical agricultural extension programme is being run in 20 universities.
“Recently our agricultural extension programme scaled through NUC accreditation to run officially in the universities. Our agitation and consistent efforts to get the programme mainstream into regular university programme finally yielded positive result. We hope with this approval the programme will be properly sustained and adequately funded by the university because we realised funding and other logistics for running the programme are becoming difficult. That was after the provision of Sasakawa Africa Funds for Extension Education (SAFE) ended.
“We envisaged this situation right from the beginning and that was why we approached Federal Ministry of Education; we visited the minister to see the need to mainstream the programme so as to sustain it. Today we are pleased to inform you that the programme has been accredited,” he said.
Miko posited that the mainstreaming of the programme, henceforth will compel universities to take full responsibility of funding and sustaining the programme.
The country director who regretted that the challenges of funding and insufficient resources were frustrating the sustainability of the programme noted that the mainstreaming it into regular programmes in the universities would strengthen and enhance the quality of the products.
At the briefing, which was part of activities marking the 30th anniversary of Sasakawa in Nigeria, Miko restated the organisation’s commitment to strengthen the agricultural extension system.
This he said would be achieve by building the capacity of extension professionals and small-holder farmers to accelerate agricultural productivity and competitive value chain in the country.
“The training has not only equipped students with modern technical knowledge on agricultural extension but also accelerate promotion of many who could not cross the bar due to lack of qualification in extension training,” Miko stated.