With its significant contribution to the nation’s GDP and its ability to engage over 70% of Nigeria’s labour force, agriculture remains the largest sector of the economy.
However, the ability of the sector to achieve its full potential arises from issues, not unconnected to poor agricultural practices, lack of access to information and markets.
Agricultural extension market system is crucial to sustainably addressing these issues, but with a ratio of one extension agent to over three thousand, five hundred farmers, the current system is grossly inadequate.
In an attempt to develop the capacity of farmers, provide business advisory, facilitate empowerment and pass on new technologies; radio programmes and community outreaches for farmers have been adopted and have been met with some success. However, the scale is limited and the underlying missing market capacity – absence of agricultural service providers has not been addressed.
To address these issues, Farm Innovation Nigeria Limited with support from the Propcom Mai-Karfi project and UK Aid, launched its flagship product “Farm Aid” in Adamawa and Gombe on March 10, 12, 2020 respectively. The digitized agricultural extension platform leverages mobile technology to provide affordable and convenient digitized e-extension services to small holder farmers.
The platform was designed to provide farmers with up-to-date information on Good Agronomic Practices (GAP) while connecting farmers to agro-input dealers and off-takers. It also provides with them with real-time weather information for climate-smart agriculture and other value-added services. The innovative agricultural technology company is currently focusing on four (4) crop value chains of Rice, Sorghum, Tomato, Groundnuts, and Livestock with plans for further expansion. With over 15,000 farmers onboarded across Gombe and Adamawa states, plans are in place to increase the current geographical coverage.
Having spent years working on improving market access for smallholder farmers in the Northern Nigeria, the Propcom Mai-karfi project has identified the provision of information services as a priority. It is believed that solutions that leverage ICT to efficiently connect farmers to the market, while providing information on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) can be advantageous in addressing the constraints faced by market actors in this space. With a focus on farmers living below $2 dollars a day in hard to reach, post-conflict communities, technology could be the key to addressing their agricultural needs.
In his keynote address during the launch of the platform in Gombe State, the Honourable Commissioner Ministry of Agriculture and Husbandry, Alhaji Muhammad Magaji, appreciated the “effort being made by Farm Innovation Nigeria in implementing a commercially driven digitized agricultural e-extension service solution”. He assured the stakeholders present of the state government’s determination to… “ensure efficient cost-effective and sustainable means of delivering extension services to small holder farmers.” He also called on farming communities, commodity associations and stakeholders to support the work of Farm Innovation Nigeria towards improving the livelihoods of poor women and men in North Eastern Nigeria.