Smart Agriculture Will Combat Hunger – Pantami

TECH DIGEST – The integration of digital technology in agricultural value chain has been identified as a major stimulus that would help the county combat the challenges of hunger that may arise due to the growing world population which is projected to rise to 10 billion people by 2050.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami stated this Tuesday in Gombe, while delivering his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the training programme organized to absorbed another 140 youthful farmers into the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture, (NAVSA.)

NAVSA is an ecosystem-driven digital platform created for the transformation of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
It is designed to help farmers and other agricultural ecosystem players navigate their journey across the agriculture value chain.

The minister, who explained that the imminent increase of about 2.5 billion in the world population would bring the challenge of hunger, added that “any nation that fails to strategize on how to take care of itself agriculturally, will definitely face a very huge challenge because no country exports until it is satisfied.

“In less than 30 years, the world population will increase by 2.5 billion which is unprecedented and this increase will come with so many challenges and the number one challenge is going to be hunger, especially in the developing nations that are still lagging behind when it comes to policies and strategies.

Citing example of how Netherlands became second exporter of agricultural produce in the world with its relatively small population and land mass, Pantami noted that the adoption of digitization in farming would surely bring about transformation into the sector.

“The model of agriculture being practiced in Netherlands reduces the consumption of water by 90 percent, and it increases the quality of production by minimum of 500 percent. It also reduces the use of insecticide by minimum of 99 percent because of the way they deployed modern technology in agriculture.

He added that “climate change and population explosion remain the two most dangerous challenges confronting agriculture and the earlier we use technology to drive the sector the better for us.”

He said, as part of the federal government policy on the digital economy, which the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy came up with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy and NITDA has been directed to champion this program on Smart Agriculture in Nigeria.
Pantami explained that under the federal government policy on digital economy, his ministry formulated the National Digital Economy and Strategy and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was directed to champion the programme on Smart Agriculture in Nigeria.

The minister, who described as unprecedented, the consistency in coming up with policies geared towards promoting digitization in the country, noted that the policies were yielding tremendous result.

“This program is one of the policies given to the parastatals to implement. Other parastatals will join in the training. Nigeria Communication Commission may probably join in 2021. They will start organising similar training because we have so many models to deploy in agriculture.

“So we do hope our teeming youths will grasp the opportunities to become entrepreneurs at the end of the training and support the economy by creating more jobs for our citizens,’’ said Pantami.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Director-General, National of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa maintained that the program is part of the Agency’s implementation of the national digital economy policy to digitalize Nigeria.

He stated further that the innovative initiative is meant to transform agriculture business in Nigeria by making it attractive investment for the youth, boost food production as well as reduce wastage in the sector.

“Looking at what is happening globally and how digital technology is changing the way we live, the way we work and the way we do business, we see it as a source of inspiration to look at how we can adapt and adopt these technologies in agriculture because most of us in Nigeria take agriculture as our source of income and it contribute more than any other sector to our Gross Domestic Product, GDP,” he said.
Kashifu said the adoption of digital technology in agriculture and the NAVSA initiative would solve the problem of wastage associated with the sector due to poor knowledge of harvesting techniques, poor post-harvest management and lack of suitable infrastructure and market platform to sell agricultural produce.

“This initiative would provide a platform for you to share knowledge among yourselves and other stakeholders. In post-harvest management, the emerging technology will help you in preserving the produce and we would create a market platform for you because the world is moving into a platform business.

“This national platform will help you to get access to all stakeholders in agriculture value chain in the country and it can provide you link to the off takers that would buy your produce,” he added.

The beneficiaries expressed appreciation to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA for the opportunities the NAVSA would avail them. They promised that they would ensure they translate the program to fulfill the aspiration of the Agency.
Dignitaries at the event included the NITDA Board Chairman, Dr. Abubakar Saidi; the Vice Chancellor, Gombe State University, Prof. Aliu Usman El-Nafati; Managing Director Galaxy Backbone, Prof. M.B Abubakar, among others.