By Mubarak Umar
One of the major challenges facing Nigeria’s agricultural practices for a long is the lack of relevant information. The challenges have contributed to the inability of farmers to meet the rising demands in foods locally, produce high-quality agricultural products that meet international standards, have access to financial security which in turn result in the importation of food and other agricultural products, thereby making the sector contributes significantly less to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The world population is expected to grow by over a third (or 2.5 billion people) by 2050, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This is a much slower rate of growth than seen in the past four decades during which it grew by 3.3 billion people (or more than 90 percent). Nearly all of this growth is forecast to take place in developing countries. Among the latter, sub-Saharan Africa’s population would grow the fastest with 114%. Urbanization is foreseen to continue at an accelerating pace to account for 70% percent of the world population in 2050 (up from 49 percent at present) with the rural population, after peaking sometime in the next decade, actually declining.
Global economic growth of about 2.9 percent annually would lead to a significant reduction or even near elimination of absolute poverty in the developing countries (persons living on less than US$1.25/day in 2005 prices). Nevertheless, advanced countries have focused on providing the agricultural industry with the infrastructure to leverage emerging technology – including big data, cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT) – for tracking, monitoring, automating and analyzing operations.
However, the untapped potential of Nigerian farmers is currently being unfolded, as the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy introduced National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA), to change the face of the agric sector in the country.
National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture being championed by National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), is an ecosystem-driven digital platform envisioned for the transformation of the agriculture sector in Nigeria. It is designed to help farmers and other agricultural ecosystem players navigate their journey across the agriculture value chain. This journey cuts across farm production to management, processing, harvesting, storage, marketing and consumption.
It will be a source for quality and updated information that can be accessed and used by different strata of agriculture stakeholders irrespective of their educational background or language at no cost.
The initiative is aimed at facilitating the integration of digital technologies and innovations to improve the productivity and income of farmers and other ecosystem players at every step of their journey across the agriculture value chain. This is in a bid to position agriculture as a business and an enterprise that potentially attracts youths and talents to create new values and innovations that come with diverse opportunities which never existed before in the agriculture value chain.
By design, it will create business models and opportunities that would stimulate huge jobs and wealth creation and eventually, economic diversification through agriculture.
The Ministry kick-started NAVSA initiatives in late 2019 where 15 and 130 farmers benefited from programme, in Gombe and Jigawa respectively, and other states were also enlisted on NITDA’s chart. Currently, 270 farmers were empowered in Jigawa State, 140 in Ekiti State and also 155 in Gombe state.
Describing the impact of NAVSA on Nigeria’s economy, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), note that the program is one of the policies given to the agencies under the ministry to implement and other agencies will join in the empowerment soon.
NAVSA activities will immensely contribute to the economic growth and employment of the States/local government areas. Partners and Participating States and LGAs are links between the farmers. They provide enabling environment vis-a-vis the existing structure for agriculture at their disposal. Furthermore, they support NAVSA adopted farmers by providing access to land, information, finances and resources and every other thing required for the success of the programme in their respective states/LGAs.
Telecommunications and mobile services are prerequisites to achieve NAVSA strategies. Access to information and other services require smart and web-enabled technologies and mobility services such as call, ussd, sms, ivr, smart devices, internet etc. These services give the beneficiaries access to 2G, 3G and 4G enabled smart devices to guarantee connectivity.
This is to ensure that farmers have access to the best and standard inputs that give rise to improved quality of farm produce. Based on the request, a certain amount of money from each farmer’s seed fund in the digital wallet is disbursed to the input supplier(s) of his/her choice. The inputs items and the amount limit are determined by the calculation in the economics of production for each agriculture production at different stages. Based on each farmer’s request, he/she will be given clearance to collect inputs from the chosen supplier(s).
To enhance financial inclusion and minimize the risk of defaults and mismanagement of funds, all payments go through digital wallets created for farmers through Government licensed digital wallet service providers. Seeds funds allotted to adopted farmers are being disbursed into their digital wallets. Farmers can make requests for payment of inputs and operational-related expenses. Two digital wallets have been created for each farmer on the NAVSA platform.
They are restricted and unrestricted digital wallets. Farmers in their accounts on the NAVSA platform can view the information on the restricted wallets but they will not be able to access the funds. Access to the funds will go through a request-approval process on NAVSA and third parties digital wallets service providers’ platforms. The request-approval process is to settle farm inputs obligations. Requests must be approved before funds are disbursed.
NAVSA, a data-driven digital platform (accessible on the web and mobile app), is expected to facilitate and ease the activities of farmers as well as connect all ecosystem players along the agriculture value chain from production to processing and marketing. This will continually create the synergy that contributes to economic development, job and wealth creation.
It contains agriculture-related data and knowledge that can be used by farmers to improve decision-making and productivity in food yield and quality. You can also share your knowledge and let’s digitise it for the benefit of farmers.