Mobile technology has been playing a key role in the current agricultural transformation taking place in Nigeria which has yielded some increases in aggregate national food production and relatively stable food prices.
Speaking recently at a media chat, Obiajuru Luya, strategy manager for Novus Agro, a private company that uses technology to provide market access to farmers, said: “Agriculture is no longer about hoes and cutlasses but about mechanised farming, fueled with relevant data, statistics and technology.”
Luya added, “The relevance of mobile technology in agriculture cannot be over-emphasised. Prices of staples have been stable in recent times in spite of instability in other sectors such as drop in oil prices, devaluation of the naira, insurgency and so on. This is largely due to increase in domestic production of commodities.”
She stated that mobile technology was what aided the transparency and dynamics of fertilizer distribution in the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) initiative, of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).
She pointed out, “More people now see the relevance of price data and the need to get insights from it to function effectively at different levels and in different value chains from production to processing of end-user products, planning and budgetary committees are not left out.” This, she added was evident in the increased patronage of Novus Agro Commodity services in 2014.
Until the greater awareness and usage of mobile technologies particularly telephones in dissemination of agricultural information from about five years ago, many farmers, many of whom produce in the rural areas were being ripped off by middlemen. These foodstuffs merchants would go to the villages and buy agricultural produce from the farmers at giveaway prices. The farmer, who until mobile technologies made inroads into the rural areas, had no way of knowing the prices of the commodities, so, would be obliged to sell. By the time these foodstuffs get to the consumers who also had no ready access to price data, they would be sold at cut-throat prices. This was a disincentive to many of these producers especially the younger ones.
Edobong Akpabio, chief executive, Visionage Agro-tech Farms, said often prices of foodstuffs were increased by up to 1,000 percent between the villages and the cities, noting though that the middlemen face a lot of hazards transporting the foodstuffs.
However, the effect was low morale of farmers and rural-urban migration that contributed greatly to Africa’s food insecurity. But with increased use of mobile telephones, more farmers are getting useful information on right pricing and the markets to take their produce to.
Another farmer, Africanfarmer Mogaji, notes, “I ask consumers ahead of time what they want, and bring from the farm the quantity of foodstuffs that have been demanded. I ask for payments upfront.” He interacts with these customers mostly through phones.