November 17, 2015 marked a turning point for agricultural extension workers in Osun State when the State Governor Ogbeni Aregbesola asked them to leave the comfort of their offices and go back to the farm. The Governor gave the directive during a ceremony to sign a memorandum of understanding between Osun State and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) at the Governor’s Office, Oshogbo, Osun State. The agreement leased 205.5 ha of land located at the Ago Owu farm settlement to IITA for crop research, multiplication, and training of youth in the state. Presenting his vision and goals for agriculture, the Governor spoke of the need to move from being a peasant, agrarian state to one based on an agricultural economy. A key approach for achieving this goal will involve forging strategic partnerships with institutions such as IITA, he said.
Under the back-to-the-farm initiative, extension workers will be asked to focus on any crop of their choice, taking responsibility for working with farmers on the chosen crop. IITA has agreed to provide the knowledge and technical expertise and the state agricultural extension service will supply the manpower for adequate dissemination of technologies and knowledge.
Aregbesola congratulated members of the farming community. “With this gesture, IITA has been brought closer to the farmers and they should take advantage of the expertise that the Institute has to offer them,” he said. The Governor reiterated his goal of repositioning agriculture in the State. IITA Director General Dr Nteranya Sanginga noted that one of the objectives of IITA’s 10-year strategic plan is to improve food security and availability in sub-Saharan Africa, and in so doing committing to its goal of lifting 11 million Africans out of poverty through agriculture.
Observing that the goals of the State and IITA are complementary, Dr Sanginga pledged his organization’s commitment to providing local farmers with knowledge and expertise through extension workers. Farmers will use their new information and skills to improve crop quality, yields, and livestock production, he added. The Director General challenged Osun State extension workers to each take responsibility for at least two farmers in their area of responsibility.
“In all of IITA, I have only two extension workers,” he said. “Osun State has over 1000 extension workers. If each worker will work with two farmers, that will mean 2000 farmers will benefit from IITA’s knowledge and expertise.”
We know that this initiative will ensure that farmers in the State will benefit from knowledge and technologies from IITA.