Where are the cell phones for farmers?
About two years ago, the Federal Government disclosed its intention to buy and distribute 10 million cell telephones to rural farmers in Nigeria in order to boost their knowledge of agriculture and inform them about the latest prices of commodities in the local and international markets.
Speaking, first, on the issue during a farmers sensitisation programme in Ogun State, was the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, who said that the telephone programme was part of the government’s e-wallet programme and the sum of N60 billion only will be used to buy the telephone “from the manufacturing companies”.
However, few days later, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, denied that the government would expend the sum of N60 billion on the implementation of the programme which he described as part of the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck
Specifically, he said, the programme was designed to “connect farmers to information, expand their access to markets, improve their access to savings and loans and help them adapt to climate change dynamics that affects them and their livelihoods”.
The minister said that he could not have approved such a stupendous amount for the procurement of telephones as, according to him, doing so would have amounted to expensive job exporting project while “the government’s focus has been to create jobs.”
Of course, the need to create jobs for especially the millions of unemployed youths cannot be overemphasised and the opportunity provided by the agriculture sector to realise this noble objective must not be ignored by any government desirous of tackling the menace of unemployment in the country.
The agriculture sector, if properly administered with dynamic, effective and efficient policies will, certainly, cater for the employment needs of most Nigerians, ensure food security and put the nation on the path of sustainable development.
Unfortunately, governments in Nigeria have paid little attention to the agriculture sector, mostly embarking on selfishly conceived policies to the detriment of the country and its farmers.
Lamentably, farmers have always had to contend with the twin problems of drought and flood and other forms of unforeseen natural disasters which combine with low prices and lack of subsidies to further cripple their farming activities.
But, it is the recurrent failure to formulate properly articulated agricultural policies in Nigeria that made it very important for me to now ask the following questions.
Firstly, about two years after the introduction of telephone programme, has it really benefitted the farmers and improved their knowledge of farming activities and market trend?
Secondly, were there no better ways of investing the controversial amount earmarked for the telephones purchase that could be more beneficial to Nigerian farmers?
How many farmers, if there are, are still using the phones today and how effective are the phones in realising the objectives for which they were bought?
Certainly, there are many efficient ways to boost agriculture. Thus, it is lamentable to note that in spite of the huge economic and human resources Nigeria has been endowed with, the country is increasingly finding it very difficult to feed its people and rid itself of hunger, malnutrition and other forms of diseases caused by poor and inadequate feeding.
Ibrahim can be firstname.lastname@example.org