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‘Digital agriculture’ for smallholder farmers on radar as FG, IFAD, others intensify effort

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA),…

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), said they were working together to deepen Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) for smallholder farmers in the country.

Delivering an opening remark at the policy dialogue for deepening partnership for scale-up of ICT4D for smallholder farmers in Nigeria few days ago in Abuja, Mrs Dede Ekoue, the country director, IFAD country office, said e-marketing systems had the potential to boost smallholder farmers’ income by 37 per cent and productivity by 73 per cent.  E-extension services have been shown to enhance productivity by up to 75 per cent.

“The evidence has shown that Information and Communication Technology for Development in agriculture could contribute to increasing farmers’ productivity and incomes, strengthen resilience to climate change and improve access to and participation in markets, particularly for most marginalised groups, such as youth and women. Digital financial services can increase their income by 18 per cent on average, and their productivity typically receives a boost between 25 per cent and 50 per cent,” she said.

On his part, the director-general, NITDA, Dr Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, emphaised that agriculture, which is at the heart of the Nigerian economy and is critical to the diversification of the economy, could do more than 21 per cent current contribution to the gross domestic product.

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“Believe me, ICT, which contributed 19.54 per cent to GDP in the same quarter, if applied effectively in the agriculture sector, the sector can double its contribution to GDP in the next 5 to 10 years,” he said.

Dr Kingsley Uzoma, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agribusiness and Productivity Enhancement, said the government was working on many ways to digitalise the sector, including “Digital Yield and Harvest Records Integration,” which seeks to “collect and analyse crop yield and harvest data, playing a pivotal role in determining farmland values, rental agreements, sales, loans, tax assessments, and evaluating a farmer’s financial profile.”

In support of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s 2021-2025 Economic Plan, he stated that boosting Nigeria’s agribusiness sector highlighted major areas of collaboration aimed at digital transformation of Nigeria’s agricultural space.

According to him, the Expanded Farmers-Farm Registration will “broaden Nigeria’s farm registration system, capturing geocoordinates, socioeconomic details, agronomic data, and fingerprints to comprehensively register farmers and their farms nationwide, aligning with government efforts.

This registration process involves enumerating farmers and capturing farmers’ farm geocoordinates (for generating shape files and maps), socioeconomic attributes data (57 in number), farming practices, and fingerprints which are used to generate National Identification Numbers (NIN), Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) for them. Both NIN and BVN are then used to open bank account for the farmers, thereby facilitating financial inclusion. More than 3 million farmers have already been on-boarded as part of this initiative,” he said.

Earlier, Mrs Kalthum Ibrahim, Director II C&P/Planning and Policy Coordination, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, said the initiative was developed in the spirit of “learning and knowledge exchange,” where the ministry led the Nigerian delegation on “exchange mission to Kenya to learn from the IFAD- funded Kenya Cereal Enhancement Programme—Climate Resilient Agricultural Livelihood (KCEP-CRAL)—to draw lessons from a successful ICT-enabled project.”

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