The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), yesterday said Nigeria is prioritising innovation and technology investments in agriculture so as to transform the sector by attracting young people and scale up productivity.
According to a statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Mr Laolu Akande, Osinbajo stated this in a remark he delivered virtually at the 2021 High-Level Dialogue on Feeding Africa.
The event is organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in partnership with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the CGIAR System Organisation with the theme “Feeding Africa: leadership to scale up successful innovations.”
Highlighting the programmes of the government to ensure agricultural transformation in Nigeria, Prof. Osinbajo listed the Economic Sustainability Plan, National Livestock Transformation Plan and Green Imperative Project, among other initiatives.
He said: “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.”
Further, the Vice President said during the COVID lockdowns, “we 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.
“So, we have registered and mapped about 6 million small-holder farmers to their farmlands and we are also currently collecting 200,000 composite soil samples from these farms to be analyzed in 22 local soil laboratories to guide local fertilizer blending”, he said.
Continuing, Osinbajo said “on the back of the farmer-farm database which we developed, we are 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, market place 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.”
On the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), Prof Osinbajo noted that the focus is on “transiting gradually from nomadic system of cattle production to the more sedentary method of ranching. This will involve training pastoralists in new ways of producing and rearing cattle sustainably to address the challenges of resource-based violent conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herders, and the generally low milk and beef productivity of indigenous cattle breeds.”
The Vice President explained that “an indigenous technology company has developed a microchip for tracking the cattle and we are working on a pilot project with one of our development partners – the Netherlands government.”
“All the energy on the ranches will be from biogas from cattle dung and solar power. The ranch will be an integration of crops, pasture, and trees. The crops for the need of the pastoral household, the trees to fight desertification and enhance carbon sequestration rather than emission.
“Funding for this is from budgets of the Federal and State governments and bilateral support from development partners such as the Netherlands. The initial sum is in the order of 280 million USD,” he added.
Regarding the Green Imperative Project (GIP), the Vice President said that the €995 million, a 5-year project which is funded by the Import/Export Bank of Brazil (BDES) with support from Deutsche Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and others, will aim at agriculture technology transfer from Brazilian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Research and Training Institutes to Nigeria’s entrepreneurs, Research Institutes and businesses.
“The project involves 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”, he said.
“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,” the VP explained.
Other African leaders who spoke at the event included President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo; President of Senegal, Macky Sall; President of Mali, Bah N’Daw; President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré; Prime Minister of Sudan, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok; President, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde; Prime Minister of Sudan, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, among others.
Other speakers included President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina; Former UK Prime Minister, and Executive Chairman of the Institute for Global Change, Mr Tony Blair; President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gilbert F. Houngbo and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on 2021 Food Systems Summit, Ms Agnes Kalibata, among others.