African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services

COVID19 nudged NIFAAS to online networking

COVID-19 has redefined how organisations work and people interact. NIFAAS, the Nigeria Forum for Agricultural Extension Advisory Services, has taken to the new normal to market its services and better serve its membership through digital platforms.

During 2020, which has seen countries under lock down to contain the Corona virus epidemic, digital platforms have enabled NIFAAS to deliver services instantly, faster and conveniently. The CF undertook 34 capacity building programs using online tools which allowed flexibility to strategize and adapt to the effects of the pandemic. Members took capacity building on digital tools more seriously owing to the need to be technology adept while learning new skills.

CF focal person, Emmanuel Bamidele Tologbonse said NIFAAS participated in 49 online collaborative training and meetings and it also ddeveloped an e-registration and e-payment platform dues/, all thanks to virtual collaborations.

Furthermore, during the year under review, the CF was able to host strategic online meetings with partners such as FDAE, FMARD and FarmERP and also produced 12 radio jingles in English, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, and Pidgin English on staying safe from Covid-19 while engaging in agricultural production. Five jingles to promote backyard farming were also produced.

Virtual meetings worked because of Covid-19 lockdown and that time and resources were available,” Tologbonse said, adding that, “Reports from members during subsequent virtual meetings also revealed that the home/backyard farming was a huge success as many people planted vegetables, yam, cassava, and corn in their homes.

Use of virtual tools to collect and analyze data was a key lesson for the CF. It was realized that the Covid-19 ‘new normal’ demands full integration of virtual learning and agricultural advisory and networking. With the added flexibility to accommodate the changing times) in implementation procedures of development plans, the CF was able to expand collaboration between Thematic Working Groups in research methods and outputs, as well as in training.

“We learnt the lesson of the need for continuous adjustment, that change is constant and innovations keep things going,” he said.

However, poor and fluctuating digital network infrastructure posed a challenge in addition to the high cost of data, low digital literacy among majority of farmers and the low participation of lead organization-extension workers-farmers due to inadequate financial support

In the future, NIFAAS is focusing on continuous capacity building for members on use of digital tools for effective advisory, especially along TWGs. Furthermore, it wants to build the capacity of farmers and lead organizations on the use of online tools and CSA innovations.