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e-Naira: Taking Agriculture In Nigeria To New Technological Heights

Agriculture in Nigeria has an interesting history of ups and downs. Long before the discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantity, from the precolonial and colonial days to the First Republic, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy.

But when the Black Gold came along, successive leaders misplaced the nation’s priorities and progressively abandoned agriculture, textiles, mining, and other vibrant sectors that gave the country a competitive advantage over other countries.

Despite many years of neglect, agriculture remains the biggest employer of labour. Over 70 percent of Nigerians are engaged in the sector, though mainly at a subsistence level which the present administration is investing in. The contribution of the sector to the GDP is impressive too.

Between January and March 2021, agriculture contributed to 22.35 per cent of the total GDP. Nigeria has 70.8 million hectares of land area – with maize, cassava, guinea corn, yam, beans, millet, and rice being the major crops – and accounts for over 70 percent of yams produced globally.

Rice production rose from 3.7 million metric tons in 2017 to 4.0 million metric tons in 2018. But only 57 percent of the 6.7 million metric tons of rice consumed is locally produced leading to a deficit of about 3 million metric tons. To stimulate local production, the government banned importation in 2019.

As for cassava, Nigeria produced 59 million tons in 2017, making it the world’s largest producer (20 percent of global production). The economic potential is enormous, with high revenue yields from both domestic value addition and derived income as well as revenues for the government. With improved varieties and techniques, production is anticipated to increase.

Animal production has remained underexploited. Livestock mostly reared by farm families are the small ruminants like goats (76 million), sheep (43.4 million), and cattle (18.4 million). The ecology in the northern part of the country makes it famous for livestock keeping.

In addition to small and large ruminants, the poultry population stands at 180 million, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Domestic demand, however, outweighs production despite several interventions by development partners to improve production and safeguard against diseases, including transboundary animal diseases.

Nigeria is the largest fish consumer in Africa, with about 3.2 million metric tons of fish consumed annually. Its fisheries and aquaculture are among the fastest growing subsectors. With a coastline of 853km and over 14 million hectares of inland waters, total fish production per year is close to 1 million metric tons (313,231 metric tons from aquaculture759,828 metric tons from fisheries).

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Fishing is a vital livelihood for the poor as well as an important protein source at the household level. The aquaculture sub-sector is considered a very viable alternative to meeting the nation’s need for self-sufficiency in fish production and nutritional needs.

Despite the contribution to the economy, Nigeria’s agricultural sector faces many challenges that impact its productivity. These include poor land tenure systems, low irrigation farming, climate change, land degradation, low technology, high production cost and poor distribution of inputs, limited financing, high post-harvest losses, and poor access to markets.

These challenges have stifled agricultural productivity affecting the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP as well as increased food imports due to population rise, hence declining levels of food sufficiency.

For instance, between 2016 and 2019 Nigeria’s cumulative agricultural imports stood at N3.35 trillion, four times higher than the agricultural export of N803 billion within the same period. The government has implemented several initiatives and programmes to address the situation.

The policies include the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP), Nigeria–Africa Trade and Investment Promotion Programme, Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative, Economic and Export Promotion Incentives and the Zero Reject Initiative, Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), Action Against Desertification (AAD) Programme, among others.

With the increasing population, estimated to reach 400 million by 2050, enhanced agriculture productivity through adaptation of new technologies and innovations is necessary to ensure food security and nutrition. Support from all partners to the efforts by the federal and state governments is central in achieving this goal.

Talking about technology and innovations, the ongoing efforts by the the apex umbrella body for Agricultural Commodity Associations, the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), to onboard 50 million members on the e-Naira platform couldn’t have come at a better time.

National President, Mr. Victor Iyama noted that e-Naira will be of immense benefit to all the members of the Association in the long run down to the grassroots level since some members are traders, or processors, while most of the members are the farmers at the grassroots.

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The President was particularly happy about the CBN USSD (*997#) innovation, which means that without smartphones, BVN or NIN, farmers at the grassroots level can benefit fully from the e-Naira platform.

The plan is aimed at deepening the use of digital currency among farmers and agro-allied merchants ecosystem in the agricultural sector of the economy. Arabatech entered into a strategic partnership with FACAN to commence the e-Naira campaign and onboarding of its 50 million members and associations

Launched in October 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari, the e-Naira was introduced by CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, as a store of value and reliable medium of exchange. The innovation targets banked and unbanked merchants and individuals in order to make transfers, buying and selling easier, cheaper, and less cumbersome.

Since the e-Naira was launched, the CBN has welcomed a lot of ideas meant to expand the platform in areas like healthcare, agriculture, payment of bills, etc. Speaking to Economic Confidential, Head of Information Technology, Rakiya Muhammad spoke on private initiatives that are relevant to agriculture.

“This particular company came forward. They work with corporative societies like Agriculture, they give loans to small holder farmers. But often time when they give the loans, you know our people, they would use the loan to do something different from what they are meant for.

“When they heard about e-Naira, they said they would partner with us to curb malpractices and inefficiencies in the system. I am happy that we have concluded the integration, and will soon launch. If you are a farmer, the association gives you money but not in cash. They give you e-Naira.

“There is what they call input providers. Normally, the farmers will go to them to collect input and then they pay. Now, the input providers can only provide people on the scheme, and the farmers can only collect what they are supposed to collect, and then e-Naira charges it.”

Aside from aiding Nigeria’s transition into a full cashless system, it is obvious that the e-Naira platform was created to fix all things and solve all problems. The wide-ranging opportunities the platform provides are not what Nigerians can continue to ignore.

Source: Guardian

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