Farmers in the Asuogyaman district have added their voices to calls on government to address the huge gap between the number of agricultural extension officers (AEO) in the country and the number of farmers needing their services.
Director of Agriculture in the Asuogyaman district of the Eastern region, Mr. David Dokli expressed regret at the few number of extension officers currently operating in the district.
Mr. Dokli who was responding to concerns raised by several farmers at the third edition of Rite FM’s One District, One Rite Agric Forum (1D1RAF) disclosed that only six extension officers are currently operating in the district.
The situation, he said, was affecting the output of the department in its outreach programs with the farmers.
Farmers who turned up for the event on Friday expressed regret at the poor farmer, extension officer ratio in the district.
The low number of extension officers available to farmers in the district, the farmers regretted, affected the quality of farm practices employed by the farmers.
They insist that the concern which has severally been raised by them was a bother as most of their concerns could not be addressed.
One of them, Daniel said the lack of the officers exposed farmers to questionable farming practices. He said some farmers blindly copied outdated and inappropriate farming practices of colleague farmers because there were no officers to instruct them on proper ways of farming.
Another farmer who was also disadvantaged by the situation wondered how farmers in the district could adopt the improved seeds being advocated by the department as there were no officers to tutor them on the modalities of using the seeds.
“You are advocating and urging all farmers to adopt the improved seeds in our farming activities but the question is who will guide us in the improved seeds since there are no extension officers to guide us,” he quizzed.
Complaints of inadequate number of extension officers in the district are real,” Mr. Dokli said. “There currently are only six Extension Officers in the Asuogyaman district and even out of that number, one is a student while others are supervisors.”
The lack of extension officers is a common challenge in several districts of the country.
Farmers in the country have severally complained about the lack of extension officers in their respective farming communities. Where the officers are found, their operations cover a few number of farmers leaving a large number of farmers unattended to.
Eastern regional Director of the Extension Services only days ago raised similar concerns on the Rite Morning Ride that government was making no attempts to recruit graduates from the Agric Colleges to replace existing staff, despite persistent requests from the department.
Papa Allotey said the situation was making it very difficult for the department to effectively and efficiently carry out its mandatory duties as it is handicapped in reaching out to all of its operational areas.
He attributed the problem to the aging population of the few extension officers available, as government is failing to employ new and younger officers to close the deficit.
He said three extension officers in charge of about sixteen operational areas in the Eastern region for instance is woefully inadequate, a situation he regretted adversely affected extension services in the region.
It is estimated that there are about 5,000 extension officers who have graduated from the five Colleges of Agriculture but are unemployed because of pressure on the public sector payroll.
Presiding member of the Asuogyaman District Assembly, Mr. Jonathan Hagan however said additional extension officers would be recruited through the Nation Builders Corps programme launched by President Akuffo Addo in May.
He said graduates who will be employed through the ‘Feed Ghana’ module of the programme will be trained to undertake activities of the extension services.
The forum which was held on Friday at the assembly hall of the Asuogyaman district assembly was aimed at creating a conducive platform for providing the grounds for relevant inputs for the development of agriculture in the municipality.