Nigeria Priortising Innovation, Technology Investments In Agriculture — Osinbajo

TECH DIGEST – Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria is prioritizing innovation and technology investments in agriculture in order to transform the sector by attracting young people and also scaling up productivity.

The event was organised by the African Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in partnership with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the CGIAR System Organisation.

The theme of the dialogue is “Feeding Africa: leadership to scale up successful innovations”.

Osinbajo listed three initiatives –the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), the National Livestock Transformation Plan and the Green Imperative Project– as programmes geared toward agricultural transformation.

“At the heart of Nigeria’s post COVID-19 recovery plan, or what we describe as ESP is Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP).

“Here we seek to leverage suitable technologies to build a resilient food system for Nigeria especially in the light of the economic, health and food supply chain devastations caused by the pandemic.

“Implementation is well underway and we have quite a few impressive results already.

“During the COVID lockdowns, we trained and deployed over 34,000 young graduates all over the country, covering over 8,000 local government wards in 774 Local Government Areas.

“Each of these young men and women had a locally developed app on smartphones and electronic tablets to digitally register farmers and map out their farm GIS coordinates.

“So, we have registered and mapped about six million small-holder farmers to their farmlands and we are also currently collecting 200,000 composite soil samples from these farms to be analysed in 22 local soil laboratories to guide local fertiliser blending.”

He said that on the back of the farmer-farm database developed, the government was creating a digital Agriculture Exchange Programme (AgExchange), working with the Alliance Rabobank and MasterCard in collaboration with some local FinTech companies.

According to him, the FinTech companies (FarmCrowdy, Infinera, CropIT) are run by young Nigerians.

“The AgExchange will be an ecosystem or one-stop-shop for providing a range of services and products to small-holder farmers such as real-time e-subsidies, credit-connect by providing credit score of farmers on the platform.

“And also linking them to financiers, insurance services, and market place services for connecting producers, aggregators and off-takers based on competitive market prices.

“ Input suppliers, weather, pests, and disease indexing services will be provided on the exchange as well; the budget for the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan AFJP is 1.5 billion dollars.”

On the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), Osinbajo said that the focus was on transiting gradually from nomadic system of cattle production to the more sedentary method of ranching.

The vice president said that it would involve training pastoralists in new ways of producing and rearing cattle sustainably.

He said it would address the challenges of resource-based violent conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herders, and the generally low milk and beef productivity of indigenous cattle breeds.

“An indigenous technology company has developed a microchip for tracking the cattle and we are working on a pilot project with one of our development partners – the Netherlands government.

“All the energy on the ranches will be from biogas from cattle dung and solar power.

“The ranch will be an integration of crops, pasture, and trees; the crops for the need of the pastoral household, the trees to fight desertification and enhance carbon sequestration rather than emission.

“Funding for this is from budgets of the Federal and State governments and bilateral support from development partners such as the Netherlands. The initial sum is in the order of 280 million dollars,” he said.

Besides Osinbajo, other African leaders who spoke at the event included President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi, President of Senegal, Macky Sall and President of Mali, Bah N’Daw.

More so, President of Burkina Faso, Christian Kaboré, Prime Minister of Sudan, Dr Abdalla Hamdok, President, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde and Prime Minister of Sudan, Dr Abdalla Hamdok.

President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, former UK Prime Minister, and Executive Chairman of the Institute for Global Change, Mr Tony Blair, and President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) were among the speakers.

Gilbert Houngbo and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on 2021 Food Systems Summit, Ms Agnes Kalibata, also spoke at the event.