Thursday, 09 January 2020 10:14

Prioritizing Nigeria’s Agriculture Value Chain for Digital Intervention Featured

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Agriculture is recognized as a critical enabler of economic growth in developing countries, thus, the importance of agriculture towards national food security, import substitution and job creation cannot be overemphasized. For Nigeria to move closer to unlocking its full agriculture potential, the value chain have to be identified, mapped, prioritized and digitized. For Africa to feed her teeming population, farmers must produce as much per acre as it can, decrease the threat of crop failure, decrease operational costs, and sell crops for the maximum value possible. This necessitates, among other things, digitally managing of input resources like fertilizer, water, and seed quality and reducing the impact of changeable variables (such as the climate and pests).


Agriculture Sector Overview

The full economic potential of the application of technology and innovation across the whole agri-food supply chain could add major value to Nigeria agriculture. The entire agri-food supply chain, from agriculture to final retailing and catering, is estimated to contribute to the GDP growth, and be a major source of employment for the country. The World Bank reports that agriculture’s contribution to real GDP has risen steadily in recent years, from 24.4 percent in 2016 to an estimated 25.1 percent in 2017 and a forecast 25.4 percent in 2018. Although the sector’s growth rate has fluctuated in recent years, it has remained positive, moderating from 4.3 percent in 2014, to 3.7 percent in 2015, picking up to 4.1 percent in 2016 and falling to an estimated 3.4 percent in 2017. The World Bank forecasts the sector will grow by 3.5 percent in 2018.

The agricultural workforce has fallen from a 25-year high of 60.7 percent of total employment in 2002 to an all-time low of 30.6 percent in 2010, before rebounding to 36.3 percent in 2016 and 36.6 percent in 2017, according to World Bank data. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), meanwhile, reports that agriculture grew by 10.6 percent year-on-year in nominal terms during the second quarter of 2018. In real terms, the sector expanded by 1.2 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2018, with the NBS reporting that its contribution to real GDP stood at 22.9 percent as of the second quarter of 2018.

By creating comprehensive insights into agriculture operations and situation, digital platforms such as farmX mobile applications could support farmers in making data-based operational decisions to optimize yield and boost revenue while minimizing expenses, the chances of crop failure, and environmental impact. Most smallholder farmers’ are now using mobile and web applications to connect with value chain players, access industry information, purchase livestock feeds and fertilizer from online stores, hire farm equipment, diagnose crops and gain access to markets through e-commerce platforms.

FarmX mobile solutions which comprises of FarmX mobile Application (farmX) and farmTRUST Local dialect IVR switchboard (IVR) provides innovative matching opportunities for agricultural supply chain players to connect for increase productivity, market access and efficiency which help farmers especially to retain bigger share of their crop value.

Smallholder Farmers: Tapping into the Digital Gains

With the exponential penetration of mobile network coverage to rural areas, mobile solutions leverages on network coverage to help more farmers scale their farming practices by improving yields and connecting them to larger supply chains, thus, addressing food security, adaptation & resilience to climate change. AgTech mobile solutions such as farmX mobile app offers services such as profiling of farmers, interns, logistics services and agro-allied services, which enables a digital identity of farmers. These aid in improving access to inputs and extension services from government to farmers. Data from such a platform also enables development agencies access to farmers for plant fertilizer distribution and inputs based on gender, location, and size of farm. These mobile platforms also provide required information and data to banks and insurance companies who provide credit and insurance services to women farmers’ to access agriculture insurance, loans, legal services, and equipment hire at subsidized and reduced rates, whereby addressing gender inclusivity.

Exploring the opportunities with digital platforms could help farmers make better real-time operational and market based decisions centered on economic measures versus continuing with inherited farming practices. Also, such services allow farmers to review data from historical information on similar issues that may have been encountered so they could learn from the actions taken at that time and make better operational decisions today.

Digital services could be used in a wide variety of ways to report ineffectiveness in farming practices across crop types. Forecasting and detecting outbreaks from cassava mosaic to maize streak which causes devastating impact to farms. Digital solutions could reduce the time and improve the accuracy of scouting; to measures growth rates; accessing wider markets and providing input data to variable-rate application of pesticides and irrigation.

An example of El-kanis’ farmTRUST Ag-sensor drone service use case is helping farmers decide when to harvest. For instance, the service could alert a farmer that a particular plot might be ready for harvest earlier than expected. It could also be instrumental at the start of the crop cycle as it produces precise 3-D maps for early soil analysis, useful in planning seed planting patterns. Farmers could assess crop health and spot bacterial or fungal infections on crops. By scanning a crop using both visible and near-infrared light, drone-carried devices identifies which plants reflect different amounts of green light and NIR light. This information produce multispectral images that track changes in plants and indicate their health status.

  • Excess fees by mobile phone operators
  • Lack of cooperation from institutional bodies (state and NGOs)
  • Funding and access to finance for scaling up
  • Weak knowledge on ICT4Ag/e-commerce by consumers and government
  • Logistics (accuracy of customer addresses during deliveries)
  • Difficulty in defining a business model that supports growth and scaling up
  • Low start-up support in AgTech (absence of specialized incubators)
  • Access to finance

Although innovators in Nigeria continue to face serious challenges in terms of scaling, reducing cheap imports and growing exports, the agriculture sector continues to show high potential for future digital expansion. A large and growing domestic population, an ample supply of arable but unfarmed land, ICT penetration and adoption and a diverse food production base should see the country make strong progress towards its mid-term growth targets leveraging digital technologies for agricultural productivity. The future of agriculture will also require new and pioneering partnerships between different stakeholders in the food system and to meet this challenge, organizations such as USAID, FAO, CTA, GSMA Agritech, GAFSPfund, CGIAR, DFID, EL-kanis and Partners, The Fork, Harvestplus, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, International Finance Corporation (IFC). These organizations are actively participating in designing and developing advisory programs and digital platforms that improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by linking them to modern supply chains, and are creating opportunities to increase agriculture productivity through improved farming practices, access to financing, technology, and high-quality inputs.


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Ben Ekanikpong

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