The world today is fast becoming a digital space where virtually every activity of mankind is leveraging on the availability of digital technology.
This innovation has heightened the level of productivity around the globe, thereby making distribution and access to commodities and services even easier than it used to be.
Digital technology has created enabling techniques that have helped in improving data and information gathering in all works of life, ranging from businesses, schools, security, media, medicine, and most recently agriculture.
As a matter of fact, one sector in Nigeria that has adopted digitalization to its effective advantage is the agricultural sector.
In what is somewhat like a movement for an industrial revolution in Nigeria, there have been a series of initiatives created to encourage farmers in Nigeria to adopt digital technology as a standing solution in enhancing agricultural growth and stability in the country.
To trigger this movement, the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy launched the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) programme.
This initiative has been lauded by many and labelled as the new wave of digital advancement the Nigerian agricultural sector.
NAVSA’s major campaign is monitoring activities of the ecosystem, data gathering and analysis, and also follows up limitations impacting on the environment.
It also monitors biodiversity and production of agricultural produce with negative effects such as pollution, biodiversity loss and shrinking yields.
In Jigawa, the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) kick started and empowered over 130 farmers with an avenue to create a possible addition of 2,600 indirect jobs, increase farmers’ income by 30 per cent and contribute to the State’s economic development and national GDP.
This array of development is channeled towards projecting digital agriculture into the Nigerian agricultural sector through the NAVSA initiative supported by the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
In achieving these goals, farmers are exposed to up-to-date digital tools like smart devices, digital Agripreneurship training and skill acquisition, E-extension services, mobile apps, financial Inclusion through digital wallets and Connectivity which includes one-year Internet access and closed user group (CUG) Calls for adopted farmers.
Most recently, the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) empowered 140 farmers in Ekiti State. It moved to create more jobs for the youthful population in southwest and attract them into agriculture, improve food production, increase wealth and income of farmers and improve food security, promotes access to international food markets and a host of other agricultural products.
The Ekiti outreach helped farmers to benefit from some of the reform agenda of the NAVSA initiative. This benefit ranges from smart devices (Tablet), seed funds, skill acquisition, financial inclusion, agro-business models’ opportunities and a host of others.
This initiative is one that would benefit the Nigerian agricultural sector, as it has the tendency to maximize issues of labor force, unemployment, enhance digital literacy for farmers and other monetary aspects that have been affected over time.
For instance, the recent coronavirus pandemic has struck a huge blow to the agricultural sector as the cost of agricultural produce, commodities and services rose to a very unbelievable extent. However, in curbing these shortcomings, digital agriculture can be adopted.
These innovations can be used efficiently to monitor plant and animal health, soil condition, temperature, humidity, etc. for improved food production, increased wealth and income of farmers and agric value chain players, improved food security, access to international food markets and host of other agricultural developmental benefits through the use of digital agricultural equipment.
An example is the application of drones in farming and other precision tools like computer queries, data software for gathering harvest data, remote sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Machine Learning and analytics.
These innovations have over the years yielded millions of dollars to the agricultural industry. In 2015, a staggering $4.6 billion was reported to have been made from investments in digital agriculture and studies have shown that the output rate from the investment is likely to increase by 60% by 2030.
Similarly, the NAVSA outreach in Jigawa supported by the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, outlined all these variables and potentials of harnessing the dividend of digital agriculture as it seeks to improve agriculture in the country.
One of such reforms is a partnership with telecom outfits in providing special packages for adopted farmers. The package comes with special data every month on a 4G sim card and puts the adopted farmers on a closed user group (CUG). This allows farmers to make calls within themselves free of charge to share information and experience.
Also, it also seeks to improve the area of capacity building for farmers, where farmers can enjoy the knowledge of Good Agriculture Practice (GAP), agriculture value chain, agrepreneurship skills and opportunities, market-oriented farming, digital agriculture skills among others. Seed funds are also available for farmers which were worth over a hundred thousand Naira (N100, 000).
Most importantly, the NAVSA program makes provision for Integrated Web and Mobile platform, that helps farmers and other ecosystem players navigate their journey (customer journey) productively and profitably across the value chain.
One of the most important strategies of NAVSA is the fact that all transactions are required to go through the platform with the aid of digital wallets. Funds are not allowed to exchange hands. It is a completely new innovation. Farmers’ registration automatically comes with two digital wallets: restricted and open wallets respectively.
However, the NAVSA initiative supported by the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, intend to spread throughout the entire 36 states of the federation as farmers from all 774 LGAs in the country will benefit from this outreach program.
With the vast fertile lands and efficient labor Nigeria possesses, it is capable of harnessing opportunities like this to foster effective agricultural produce in the country. It will not just boost the rate of production, it will increase Nigeria’s exportation activities of farm produce, thereby, generating revenue for the country and positively aggregating currency exchange rate in the international market.
Also, statistics has shown that agriculture in Nigeria amasses 70% of the workforce, regardless of the fact that a substantial percentage of the farmers practice subsistence farming.
More data has it that Nigerian growing youth population constitutes over 50% of the estimated 200 million population of Nigeria while about 82 million hectares out of Nigeria’s total land area of 91 million hectares were found to be arable but only 42% is farmed. Harnessing these potentials through digital agriculture to create jobs could therefore be a positive turn-around for the agriculture sector.
If Nigerian farmers, stakeholders like National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), and more initiatives like National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) come into the fold, the agricultural industry is destined to flourish like it was in the 70s and 80s.
Yusuf A. Yusuf is an Abuja-based blogger.