Where are the cell phones for farm­ers?

Daily Trust - - AGRICULTURE - By Abubakar Ibrahim

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

Jonathan.

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 abuzz12@ya­hoo.com

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