How Nigeria is using technology to revolutionize agriculture

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimates that 75% of Nigerians are involved in agricultural activities.

That means agriculture (mainly crop cultivation and animal husbandry) remains the largest employer of labour.

Yet despite this staggering number, agriculture accounts for less than 20% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

To address this anomaly, the Nigerian government has in the last six years made the revival of the nation’s agricultural sector one of its cornerstones.

One such way is by using innovation and technology investments to transform the sector by attracting young people and also scale up productivity.

Modus Operandi

To make its quest for a new deal for agriculture a reality,the Nigerian government has adopted key initiatives namely;

*The *The Green Imperative Project
*The Green Imperative Project

“At the heart of Nigeria’s post COVID-19 recovery plan, or what we describe as our Economic Sustainability Plan is an Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP) where we seek to leverage suitable technologies to build a resilient food system for Nigeria especially in the light of the economic, health and food supply chain devastations caused by the pandemic. Implementation is well underway and we have quite a few impressive results already.”

Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria

During the COVID lockdowns, Nigeria trained and deployed over 34,000 young graduates all over the country, covering over 8,000 local government wards in 774 Local Government Areas.

Each of these young men and women had a locally developed app on smartphones and electronic tablets to digitally register farmers and map out their farm GIS coordinates.

The government registered and mapped about 6 million small-holder farmers to their farmlands.

It is currently collecting 200,000 composite soil samples from these farms to be analyzed in 22 local soil laboratories to guide local fertilizer blending.

Game changer

In what can be described as a game-changer, Nigeria is creating a digital Agriculture Exchange Programme (AgExchange), working with the Alliance Rabobank and MasterCard in collaboration with some local FinTech companies.

These FinTech companies (FarmCrowdy, Infinera, CropIT) are run by young Nigerians.

“The AgExchange will be an ecosystem or one-stop-shop for providing a range of services and products to small-holder farmers such as real-time e-subsidies, credit-connect by providing credit score of farmers on the platform and linking them to financiers, insurance services, marketplace services for connecting producers, aggregators and off-takers based on competitive market prices. Input suppliers, weather, pests, and disease indexing services will be provided on the exchange as well. The budget for the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan AFJP is $1.5billion.”

Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria

Green alternative

Already, Nigeria has set in motion a revamped plan that emphasises the promotion of a green agriculture.

It is doing this through the Green Imperative Project (GIP), a five-year €995 million backed project funded by the Import/Export Bank of Brazil (BDES) with support from Deutsche Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and others.

This project will target agriculture technology transfer from Brazilian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Research and Training Institutes to Nigeria’s entrepreneurs, Research Institutes and businesses.

It will also involve the reactivation of dormant or partially operational privately owned agricultural equipment, assembly plants, establish 632 privately-owned primary production support service centers to sell farm mechanization services to smallholder and commercial farmers to address low productivity issues.

“Part of the plan also is the establishment of 142 privately owned agro-processing service centres which will be to address post-harvest losses, path to market and supply chain challenges, and train about 100,000 new extension agents to address farmer advisory service delivery challenges with new technology and practice adoption. An important feature of our strategy is encouraging our young techprenuers into agriculture and AGRO services and we are enjoying some success with the technology for our AGRO exchange, and our Central Bank is also licensing FinTech companies using mobile technology platforms. Some of them have been able to give non-collateral credit using credit scoring algorithms to determine credit worthiness of farmers. This is a very important part of our whole financial inclusion project because these FinTech companies are able to reach farmers practically anywhere, rate them using their credit scoring algorithms and get credits across to them in many of the far-flung areas.”

Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria

Victory?

While these policies continue to be implemented, experts say the emphasis on technology is the real hope for winning.

This is because with the Nigerian government aligning its policy thrust with the adoption of technology, it is expected that the agricultural sector will create strong value chains for agric commodities, increase investment flows, create jobs, ensure land restoration, and build resilience.

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