Farmers to get free mobile phones in 2013 — Minister

The Rockefeller Foundation is looking for ways to partner with Nigeria in the Agricultural sector.The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Communications Technology have concluded plans to distribute 10 million mobile phones to small-holder farmers in 2013.Akinwunmi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, disclosed this on Tuesday when Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, led a delegation to his office in Abuja.

According to Mr. Adesina, the phones will carry features such as information on climatic conditions, market prices of farm produce, extension workers and how farmers can access agricultural funds.

He explained that this would be rolled into the second phase of the Growth Enhancement Support scheme.

The scheme is a Federal Government initiative, aimed at subsidising the cost of major agricultural inputs, such as fertiliser and seeds.

Under the initiative, the direct procurement and distribution of farm inputs to farmers is discontinued and supplies are expected to be done through an electronic distribution channel known as thee-wallet.

The conditions of the e-wallet scheme stipulate that a farmer, registered under the scheme, is expected to pay 50 per cent of the cost of farm inputs, while the federal and state governments would pay 25 per cent each.

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“By that the farmers can get information on planting seasons. We cannot do that by newspapers, we need to have something they can relate with in local languages.

“We will continue to build on the scheme. Right now we have only one company called Cellulant managing it. Nigeria is huge; so one company can’t practically cover the entire country.

“We are going to have three more companies to join Cellulant to make it easier for farmers in the different parts of the country to access the e-wallet,” Mr. Adesina said.

He condemned reports in some quarters that the e-wallet was too technical for farmers, adding that the scheme would soon be a “powerful tool” in the hand of the farmer.

Mr. Adesina added that the ministry had also concluded plans to improve on the supply chain management from the suppliers to the farmers.

He said that the ministry had gotten in touch with four companies, whose job would be to manage the supply chains.

On the level of decline in foreign exchange on food import since the inception of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, he said: “we are gradually reaping the dividends’’.

“The result is not an instantaneous thing. It takes time to actually get the result. You plant and then you wait to harvest.

“We can only measure the decline in foreign exchange on food import, as we move forward in the quest to bring agriculture back to its glory days,” he said.

Earlier, Ms. Rodin said that the need to provide food for the entire population of the country is about building peace and unity.

She described the agricultural innovation under the ministry as creative.

“I recognised that climate change is impacting on some parts of Nigeria differentially in different locations. So the move to find solution to this problem is important,” she said.

She noted that the Rockefeller Foundation is looking at how to support new innovations, ideas and applications in some sector of the country.

The Rockefeller Foundation is one of the world leading philanthropic organisations. The foundation supports innovations to strengthen resilience risks and ensure more equitable growth around the world.

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