Ahead of the 2020 planting season, the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, IAR&T, Ibadan, Wednesday, disclosed of donating one tonne of seed each to six states in South-West geopolitical zone as agricultural COVID-19 palliative. This was made known to Vanguard in a chat with the Executive Director, IAR&T, Prof Veronica Obatolu, while speaking on efforts of the institute on rendering technical assistance to farmers in the region.
According to Obatolu extension services by the institute is now as e-extension services, rather than going there really to visit farmers and their farms, rather the farmers are to observe any problem on the farm or if they need assistance they are to call in, because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
She also added that they do e-dissemination of relevant and useful agricultural information needed by farmers, and farmers do call in as well, which is on the radio to tell them what to do during this period. She said: “We have the research, but giving farmers the improved seeds for planting and that we have done by giving palliative to six South-western states-giving them one tone of maize seeds each for farmers because they know their farmers so that they can distribute these seeds to their farmers.
“We also have a farm helpline which is farmers’ helpline, what we do to help farmers because of the COVID-19 that is not allowing us to move about in order to disseminate our technology. We do that through our farmers’ helpline whereby we disseminate, farmers can call in and ask whether they have a problem so we can give them technical advice on whatever is necessary.
“On weekly basis also maybe if we discover any technology or what they need to do regarding these crops, especially maize, cowpea, soya bean, what we do is to text SMS to farmers. We have bulk SMS with our registered farmers that are within because of this COVID-19 pandemic we have not been able to move out but we are doing our best even without reaching or having direct contact with them we are able to send in our weekly technology through our farmers’ helpline and they can also call because our technical experts are there on the computer and they can easily call in, send messages and even do conferencing if necessary.
“Part of the extension services we are now doing it as e-extension, rather than going there really to visit when the farmers observe or any problem on the farm or need assistance they are to call in because of this COVID-19 pandemic we cannot really go as we use to do in terms of dissemination on the farmers’ field.
“But then we do dissemination through e-dissemination whereby the farmers call in, and at each appropriate time what we do is go on media that is over the radio to tell them on what to do during this period; what to plant, how to prepare the land for them, land tilling, plant distancing, and others, and most importantly is the palliative we have been able to give to the six south-western states.
We are also doing dissemination of good agricultural practices we are doing right now.” Meanwhile, she (Obatolu) urged farmers to be in their farmers as there couldn’t be any pandemic on the farm because the pandemic is usually contracted in crowded places, which the farm is not part of. But she acknowledged that points of collection for farmers are not close to them and it is a problem during this period of the pandemic, which she appealed to the state government to create points of collection of improved seeds to protect them from getting infected with the virus.
“One of the things we should know is that despite the pandemic and it is occurring because of the crowded areas where you have people, but when you are on the farm you are going to have that distance that is necessary, and there couldn’t be any pandemic on the farm. “Yes, the farmers are afraid because to get to where the seed is also the problem, so the government can assist in distributing the right seed for the farmer, the type of seed they should plant, have a place where they can collect. I think the government can bring input closer to the farmers.”
However, she said COVID-19 should not really affect the agricultural sector if the right things are put in place, and also suggested that the deployment of biotechnology is appropriate now to boost production. “This pandemic should not have an impact on biotechnology because the technology is there which has been developed and I said if we are really serious agriculture or farming is one thing the pandemic should not have an effect on if we have everything put in place.
“So if you continue apart from the fear from moving from one state to the other and once each of the State Governments can assist in getting all these closer to them they will be able to use their biotechnology wherever they want to use it and they would be able to add assess to whatever they want that is farming. “So the pandemic should not really affect our agriculture or our output, and that is why the social media says the farmers should go back to the farm so that at the end of the pandemic we will have something to fall at. So it is appropriate to deploy biotechnology at this time”, she stated.