The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL, has entered into partnership with Microsoft to deploy a technological platform called Microsoft Azure FarmBeats to help Nigerian farmers reduce risks as well as attract investors to the sector.
The Head of Corporate Communications of NIRSAL, Anne Ihugba, made this known in a statement in Abuja.
Ihugba said NIRSAL and Microsoft had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, to that effect, to give more precision to farming.
She added that with the platform, farmers would be able to predict weather and other factors that hitherto contributed to the risks suffered by farmers.
She stressed that the development would further make farming more productive, cost effective while ensuring sustainable agriculture and better agricultural outcomes.
Ihugba explained that elimination of such risks across the agricultural value chain to foster more sustainable investment into the industry was a key mission and objective of NIRSAL.
She said, NIRSAL, 500 million dollar non-bank financial institution, wholly-owned by the Central Bank of Nigeria, was established in 2013.
She stressed that the institution was established to stimulate the flow of affordable finance and investments.
This, she said, the institution did by de-risking agribusiness finance value chain, fixing agricultural value chains, building long-term capacity, and institutionalising incentives for agricultural lending through risk sharing, insurance, technical assistance, incentives and rating.
“By organising four million hectares, owned by eight million farmers, into 16,000 NIRSAL AgroGeoCoops of 250 hectares each, NIRSAL aims to remove barriers to better financing for farmers.
“This will also allow for easier and more affordable deployment of modern technology for AgroGeoCoops.
“NIRSAL has turned to Microsoft Azure FarmBeats as perfect platform for Comprehensive Farm Monitoring, critical to NIRSAL Credit Risk Guarantee, CRG, to financiers and investors to minimise risks associated with agriculture and agribusiness finance and investments.”
“Microsoft’s Azure FarmBeats is a purpose-built, agricultural cloud platform that enables the aggregation of agricultural data.
“It also enables generation of actionable insights into farm health and conditions, soil moisture, crop layout and farm population.
“This is by harnessing power of Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Cloud technology.
“Agriculture is one of the longest-standing practices in the world, and yet it remains unpredictable,” she said.
She further noted that “farmers use their instincts and experience to know when to plant crops, how much and where, but external and uncontrollable factors can impact the productivity and profitability of farms.
“This, in turn, can affect a farm’s viability and accessibility to funding and investment.
“With this partnership, NIRSAL is now able to help farmers analyse weather conditions, temperature, weather conditions and so much more in real-time.
“This is to inform better decision-making to optimise agricultural output and therefore lessen the risks to investors and attract more funding in Nigeria.”
Ihugba pointed out that Aliyu Abdulhameed, NIRSAL’s Managing-Director at the signing ceremony, said, “Agriculture remains the foundation of Nigeria’s economy and is the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians.
“Therefore, the sustainability and growth of the agricultural sector is crucial for the development of the country and its people.
“We are certain that Azure FarmBeats will be the tool that will help us to analyse the data being produced from these farms and all the possible ways we can use it to stabilise the agricultural value chain.
“We are also confident that it will boost the confidence of investors to eliminate barriers to the free flow of finance and investment to agribusiness in Nigeria.”
She further noted that Akin Banuso, Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria Limited, while speaking at the ceremony, said, “Microsoft is excited to be working with NIRSAL.
“To promote precision agriculture by leveraging experience and field structure established by NIRSAL to transform agricultural space and empower those who work within it by using Microsoft’s purpose-built, industry-specific cloud platform FarmBeats to drive innovation in the industry.”