The once-flourishing Nigerian agriculture was abandoned after the first discoveries of a huge oil windfall, off the Gulf of Guinea in the late 1950s. Today, with its accounts at their lowest and its foreign currency soaring with the fluctuating falls in the price of oil, the country, which has just lost its place as the continent’s leading economic power, no longer has the means to import its rice or palm oil and seeks to get out of the recession by favoring the agricultural sector.
It must be said that the Nigerian economy’s addiction to black gold, the prices of which have now fallen sharply, has ruined the accounts of the State, which derives 70% of its revenues from hydrocarbons. As a result, poverty and unemployment are now the order of the day with a large percentage of the citizens living below $1 per day.
Each year, the rate of unemployment gives an upward jolt as seen in a report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS). According to this report, Nigeria’s unemployment rate during the fourth quarter of 2020 was 33.3%, an increase from the 27.1% recorded in the second quarter of 2020.
How does Digitization of Agriculture Come in?
Digital solutions can make a decisive contribution to the further development of the agricultural sector, which has to contend with many challenges due to years of neglect.
The Nigerian government sees digitization as the key to a successful transformation of the agricultural sector. Strengthening this sector aims to fight poverty and improve food security.
Focus on climate change and food security
Nigeria has various goals in using and promoting smart agriculture. Above all, the diversification of the economy, which is targeted at guaranteeing food security and the containment of climate change is in the foreground. The effects of climate change have been noticeable for a long time due to increasing desertification and water shortages in the north part of the country, as well as the resulting violent conflicts between nomadic shepherds popular referred to as Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
The conflicts that have been going on for years have led, among other things, to a decline in the production of food such as corn and millet in the affected states. The sustainable and efficient handling of important water and land resources is particularly important and an important driver for the introduction and promotion of corresponding intelligent solutions.
Another driver is the country’s food security, which is affected by climate change and which must be guaranteed. Nigeria is particularly vulnerable because agricultural production is not only threatened by climate change, but Nigeria is highly dependent on food imports. Despite the use of various instruments such as import bans on certain products to stimulate local production, Nigeria cannot be self-sufficient. The government now wants to optimize processes with the help of intelligent solutions and facilitate access to markets and finance to increase productivity along the entire agricultural value chain.
High expectations for the agricultural sector
The Nigerian government is pursuing ambitious goals with its Digital Agriculture Strategy (2020-2030). In the next ten years, agricultural productivity is to be increased by 50 percent, food waste is to be reduced by 50 percent and the effects of climate change are to be reduced by 40 percent. The agricultural sector is expected to create around 10 million additional jobs, especially for the young population. The government assumes that agriculture can increase its contribution to the gross national product by 50 percent to a total of over 30 percent.
Farmers want to increase output
Depending on the size of the company and field of activity as well as the degree of digital maturity and financing options, the requirements and possible uses of digital solutions vary.
The agricultural sector is characterized by small-scale farmers, who make up around 80 percent of the farmers. On average, a farmer has a 3-hectare piece of land. There are few large companies and commercial processors. Only about 8 percent of farmers practice livestock farming, about 3 percent work in fishing, and a little more than 1 percent in forestry.
Most farmers are usually confronted with fundamental challenges, some of which can be solved very well and sometimes only to a limited extent with digital offers. These include the insufficient availability of resources (seeds, fertilizer, etc.), the use of outdated equipment, a lack of specialist knowledge, poor access to markets and financing, inefficient supply chains, high post-harvest losses, and a high dependency on precipitation.
Due to the numerous fundamental challenges, the optimization of inputs and increasing yields are the main focus for smallholders. Above all, digital solutions from precision farming can play a decisive role here, as they digitally process and make information available to the farmer. These include, for example, weather and field data apps, management systems, and platforms for exchanging information and gathering information on topics such as sales opportunities and financing options.
Automatic and semi-automatic solutions are increasingly being used on larger farms with more arable land and commercial processors. These include drones and connected tractors, for example.
Politics relies on digitization
The Digital Agriculture Strategy, the roadmap for the digitization of agriculture, was inspired by the general economic development plan Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and is an offshoot of the Nigeria Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020-2030, the digital roadmap for the whole economy.
The Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the subordinate National Agency for Information technology development (National Information Technology Development Agency – NITDA). NITDA is the competent authority for intelligent agriculture and has the authority to issue regulatory standards and guidelines for the ICT sector.
Due to the tight budget situation, the Nigerian government has only limited resources for targeted financial support. Financial support comes primarily from donors such as USAID and banks such as the African Development Bank, as well as from private foundations such as the Bill Gates Foundation.