Sep 3, 2012

mGov na Nigéria

THE Federal Government may have concluded plans to distribute 10 million mobile phones to small-holder farmers next year.

The distribution scheme is being handled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications Technology.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, disclosed this yesterday, when the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Judith Rodin, led a delegation to his office in Abuja.

According to him, the phones will carry features such as information on climatic conditions, market prices of farm produce, extension workers and how the farmers can access agricultural funds.

He explained that this would be rolled into the second phase of the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme.

The scheme is a Federal Government’s initiative, aimed at subsidising the cost of major agricultural inputs, such as fertiliser and seeds.

Under the initiative, the direct procurement and distribution of farm inputs to farmers is discontinued and supplies are expected to be done through an electronic distribution channel known as the e-wallet.

The conditions of the e-wallet scheme stipulate that a farmer, registered under the scheme, is expected to pay 50 per cent of the cost of farm inputs, while the federal and state governments would pay 25 per cent each.

Adesina said: “By that, the farmers can get information on planting seasons. We cannot do that by newspapers. We need to have something they can relate with in local languages.

“We will continue to build on the scheme. Right now we have only one company called Cellulant managing it. Nigeria is huge; so one company can’t practically cover the entire country.

“We are going to have three more companies to join Cellulant to make it easier for farmers in the different parts of the country to access the e-wallet.”

He condemned report from some quarters that the e-wallet was too technical for farmers, adding that the scheme would soon be a “powerful tool” in the hand of the farmer.

Adesina added that the ministry had also concluded plans to improve on the supply chain management from the suppliers to the farmers.

He pointed out that the ministry had gotten in touch with four companies, whose job would be to manage the supply chains.

On the level of decline in foreign exchange on food import since the inception of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), he said: “We are gradually reaping the dividends. The result is not an instantaneous thing. It takes time to actually get the result. You plant and then you wait to harvest.

“We can only measure the decline in foreign exchange on food import, as we move forward in the quest to bring agriculture back to its glory days.”

Earlier, Rodin explained that the need to provide food for the entire population of the country was about building peace and unity.

She described the agricultural innovation under the ministry as creative.

“I recognised that climate change is impacting on some parts of Nigeria differentially in different locations. So the move to find solution to this problem is important,” she said.

According to her, the Rockefeller Foundation was looking at how to support new innovations, ideas and applications in some sector of the country.

The foundation supports innovations to strengthen resilience risks and ensure more equitable growth around the world.