Tuesday, November 12, 2019 / 5:43 PM / Nifemi Taiyese for
Proshare WebTV / Header Image Credit: WebTV
Agriculture is a critical sector of the Nigerian economy beyond oil because of its large potential value chain. At the recent 2019 Nigeria Fintech Week, panelists discussed the prospects for technology and smart agriculture in the country.
The discussion was chaired by Jacquelyn Yawa Head, Agribusiness Guinness Nigeria Plc.
Yawa set the agenda for the conversation by stating that the Agriculture sector contributes to 21% of Nigeria's GDP and employs two-thirds of the adult population of Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Babatunde Obrimah, the Chief Operating Officer of Fintech Association of Nigeria in his opening remarks, noted the agriculture sector had seen neglect for quite a while, and there has been no conscious strategy to deal with the sectoral issues. The matter, according to him, goes beyond small-holder farmers but encompasses the entire agricultural value chain from fertilizer inputs to the quality of seeds planted, the level of mechanization, the quality of the harvest, the quality of storage, and logistics. He said it was a multi-lateral problem that needed fixing.
Speaking on the prospects for "Smart Agriculture," Mr. Ayoola Oluga CEO, Agrecourse Integrated Services Limited, remarked that in a technology age, there is a lot of digitization going on across all sectors.
Mr. Oluga stressed the need for the connection of farmers to investors. He said at Agrecourse, farmers have access to finance and all the inputs they need. They also monitor the whole process of production and help to ease the burden of access to finance and access to the market for farmers.
Obrimah, on his part, reiterated the fact that Agriculture must be seen as a business, and there is a need to determine the market. Being able to fix the market helps to solve these problems to avoid producing, and it going to waste; there is already a market waiting to take produce.
He stressed the need for aggregation models to put farmers in groups and fix the market for them, then it would reduce post-harvest losses and help to solve the logistics problem.
"Once you can fix the market, the evacuator can have arrangements to pick them up either in sequences or even provide solar-powered cold rooms as a form of preservation before the produce is evacuated. Fixing the market helps to solve a lot of these problems," Obrimah emphasized.
Obrimah added that there should be aggregation models to put farmers in groups and fix the market for them, then it would reduce post-harvest losses and help to solve the logistics problem.
Oluga equally emphasized the need for people to see agriculture as a sustainable business, which is one of the things Agrecourse is doing to change people's perspective.
He cited the recent Agrecourse engagement with several farmer groups, which enabled them correct some poor farming practices.
According to him, Agrecourse trained 82 female rice farmers in Kano and Jigawa areas and youths in Kano, through collaboration with an international NGO that sponsored the program.
Obrimah stressed the role of government as critical to the development of the Agro-sector.
He said through the creation of an enabling environment, infrastructure, and guaranteeing long-term funds for the procurement of high-level mechanization equipment, the agro sector has great prospects to thrive in Nigeria.
Obrimah believed the entire value chain must align to boost the agro sector, and this covers issues like logistics, research, the right quality of high yielding seeds, robust mechanized farming and access to inputs and finance for farmers.
The moderator, Yawa on her part, in summary, was of the view that with digitization the following can be achieved;
"There should be consequences for bad behaviour, such that substandard fertilizer is prohibited entry into the country; unserviceable machinery should not go to state governments where there is no infrastructure to support the venture. We have to make sure that artisans train in the use of tractors," Yawa said.