The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, has said that smart agriculture is part of promoting digital innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
The minister made the statement on Saturday, at the closing ceremony to end the adoption of farmers for the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture, NAVSA, empowerment programme for 140 farmers in Ekiti State.
DAILY NIGERIAN reports that NAVSA was designed to support the Federal Government in its drive to create more jobs for the youthful population as well as attract them into agriculture.
This, the government noted, was to improve food productivity, increase wealth and income of farmers, agric value chain players, improve food security, promote access to international food markets and host of other agricultural products.
According to the minister, this initiative was sequel to the need to build a robust environment to drive a digital platform for transformation of the Agricultural sector for a Digital Nigeria.
To this end, the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and in collaboration with Ekiti State Government partnered for the project.
According to Mr Pantami, the requirements to succeed in the 4th industrial revolution necessitate digitalization to be at the core of any nation’s developmental policy and strategy.
He said: “The digital economy is the single most important driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth and there is no doubt that digitization of the economy is one of the most critical issues of our time.
“Traditional industries are being reshaped by business models that have never existed before.”
He said digitization has a proven impact on economy and society by reducing unemployment, improving quality of life, and boosting access to knowledge.
He added that digitization is transforming the world in almost every aspect of life during the last few decades.
“The access to the internet, increase of people using mobile phones, social media and other digital services changed the way people interact, communicate, learn and work in almost every country.
“This made his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to unveil and launch the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria on the 28th of November, 2019 with a vision to transform Nigeria into a leading digital economy providing quality life and digital economies for all.
“This administration is building and leading the journey of digitizing every sector of the economy,” he revealed.
Mr Pantami asserted that the potential benefits of digitizing the agro-food sector are convincing, but would require major transformations of farming systems, rural economies, communities and natural resource management.
“This is a challenge which requires a systematic, technology-driven and holistic approach to achieving the full potential and benefits.
“This Smart Agriculture is part of promoting Digital Innovation and Digital Entrepreneurship.
“Agriculture has been very significant to our economy as a nation and it continues to remain very relevant in our country,” he said.
He, however, said the ministry had discovered that the output Nigeria generates from agriculture compared to efforts put and resources being spent has no justification for that.
He, therefore, said in order to enhance the output from agriculture to save cost and at the same time to integrate it, they came up with Smart Agric.
Mr Pantami emphasised that building a digital platform to connect agriculture ecosystem to deliver services to farmers in a more productive and efficient manner is in the interest of nurturing digital economy for a digital Nigeria.
He assured that the Nigerian Government through his ministry and in collaboration with relevant stakeholders would support this initiative to ensure it is implemented in all the States in Nigeria.
He said the implementation would immensely contribute to massive job creation, improvement in the income of farmers and country’s GDP.
Dr Pantami, however, called on private sector, development partners and state governments to support this initiative; partner with the Nigerian Government in the areas of finance, farm inputs, research and development, capacity building, smart solutions & services, green energy among others.
The success of this initiative in the agriculture sector, he said, would practically demonstrate the potentials inherent in digital technologies and innovations as the great enabler of the digital economy.
The Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Abdullahi, in his remarks said: “We believe leveraging digital technologies and innovations will attract youthful population into agriculture and create new digital business models across the agriculture value chain.
“It will enable millions of jobs, increase productivity and contribution of the agriculture to GDP thereby making Nigeria a leading nation in food security and exporter of standard agricultural produce to the rest of the world”.
He recalled that the programme was first piloted in Jigawa state earlier this year adding that the project was initiated to systematically adopt farmers across the 774 local government areas, LGAs in the country.
This, he said, was in order to equip them with necessary digital skills that would make Nigeria one of the leading nations for smart agriculture.
“This initiative is geared towards supporting Federal Government’s digital economy agenda in order to bring into reality the economic diversification of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and ensure attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) two (2) of ending hunger and achieving food security by 2030.
“AgricTech is revolutionizing agriculture from promoting indoor vertical farming in the urban areas which use up to 70% less water than traditional farms to farm automation that automates crop or livestock production cycle using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, autonomous tractors, drones and robotics innovation etc. to livestock farming technology that makes tracking and managing livestock data-driven and much easier to modern greenhouses that are techy and data-driven,” he asserted.
Mr Abdullahi revealed that harnessing these potentials through AgricTech to create jobs could therefore be a game-changer for the agriculture sector.
He further revealed that the empowerment programme would provide Smart Device (Tablet); Seed fund of 100,000 naira for enterprise inputs; Digital Agripreneurship training & skill acquisition; Connectivity.
This, he said, includes one-year Internet access & closed user group, CUG Calls for adopted farmers; NAVSA Platform (Mobile App); Financial Inclusion through Digital Wallets (Open & close wallets for each adopted farmer, input suppliers and off-takers).
Other benefits include e-Extension services; Agric as a Business & Agro Business Models’ Opportunities; & Continuous reinvestment model.
“We would start piloting the deployment and integration of smart technologies such as IoT, GIS technologies and geospatial analysis, Artificial Intelligence, Big data analytics, blockchain among other emerging technologies to promote smart agriculture solutions that address different challenges on NAVSA platform base on sustainable business models.
“Also, we would be introducing modern greenhouses, farm automation, and precision agriculture among others. These solutions will be targeted at high performing farmers,” he said.
The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, represented by the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Olabode Adeoyi, said: “Agriculture is the next oil for the country, bringing about the creation of jobs, assuring citizens of food security in the country.
“Digital Technology will enable you to do things at ease without stress, bringing about increase in productivity, creating jobs, better performance and increase revenue,” he added.
Mr Adeoyi further said that the expectation from this programme is to address issues of land management, use of digital technologies to drive Agriculture, and changing the mindset of our youths, bringing out the various potentials embedded within them.
DAILY NIGERIAN reports that Ekiti State being the 1st pilot state from the southern region of the country, due to the importance of Agriculture, has been doing a lot towards involvement of its teeming youths into agriculture, with the aim to create jobs, and cash cow to the state.
The governor applauded the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA for the relentless efforts towards deepening the activities of Information Technology in the country.
The governor, while urging participants to take the training programme seriously, said NAVSA has come to stay in the state with the motive to improve the agricultural sector of the state.