It’s a blistering Wednesday, in idanre local government of the sunshine state; Ondo State, Nigeria, I just arrived Ajegunle farming community. Like many rural areas across Nigeria, the infrastructural deficit is obvious from the 20 minutes’ drive to the community from the major road.
This community just like many other rural communities across Africa caters for 65% of Africa’s labor force and contributes about 35% to the continent’s Gross Domestic Product through their major activity; Agriculture.
Despite the obvious lack, I hear the sounds of innocent children playing somewhere near, one of whom is Tinu (not her real name). Tinu like her counterparts cannot go to school as their parent cannot afford quality education for them amidst their meager earnings as smallholder farmers despite hours of hard work on the farm.
In a poorly ventilated mud house which Tinu shares with her parents and sibling, the only source of illumination that afternoon was a torchlight phone as its mostly dark inside the house. Tragically like other farming families who produce food Tinu’s family do not have enough to for themselves to eat except for cocoyam/yam and oil which they eat daily not to talk of having a nutritious diet. Farming is indeed lucrative and cool but to these in rural areas, it is laborious and unprofitable and they may remain poverty ridden for a long time due to some factors
ACCESS TO FINANCE AND MARKETS
As I walked for over 45 minutes with one of the farmers from the community to his farm I was able to deduce a nexus between access to finance and market, he highlighted that due to their inability to secure loans from formal financial institutions- due to long gestation period, and high risk- they resort to traditional money lenders who provide them the loans needed to meet the life cycle of their production. In order to keep this credit line open, other arrangements are made which include that the farmer must sell his farm product to them (the money lenders who now double as off-takers) first, unless in an event of they being uninterested to buy, then the farmer can sell to others. This limits the ability of farmers to sell at desired prices as the off-takers in those areas dictate and regulate the prices.
Access to Credit is pivotal to increase agricultural productivity, raise farmers beyond their current low levels of income; similarly, access to market is critical to maintaining sustained profitability. The CBN anchor borrower’s scheme started in 2015 has had a considerable effect toward a worthy goal of providing economic linkages between farmers and processors, an and objective of increasing banks financing to the agricultural sector, but a large percentage of farmers have been left un-impacted due to several reasons. Ms. Oyedokun highlighted having to fill lots of forms and do different verifications since Opting to receive the loan in July 2017 but till date, she is yet to receive any which she, however, finds discouraging and a waste of the little income she has, which she spends to get to the different locations of verification.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND INPUTS
Farmers in Nigeria due to poor extension services lack access to vital information Mrs Christiana 55 year old spoke about considerable changes in weather conditions while lamenting that “after spraying chemicals on her cocoa tree, the rain comes and washes them away” This signifies a loss of 60% of her expenditure on her farm which would have otherwise been averted if she had prior information about the weather. Similarly, Knowledge about the prices of their farm product in the urban market would help them better bargain with off-takers. The high cost of inputs especially fertilizer is another factor that reduces profit margin of farmers, even as expensive as it is the availability of some of these fertilizers in rural areas are questionable (read scarce).
PATH TO PROGRESS
Taking cognisance of the problems illustrated by these farmers at their basic levels which can be seen as both a cause and consequence of poverty, it is good to note that alongside these issues is the need for early warning systems, climate-smart technologies, innovative financing, comprehensive infrastructural development in rural areas, Fair, Just and accessible international and domestic market, and eradication of gender discrimination this can also be achieved through ‘simple technologies’- that fit seamlessly into the context of It’s adopters- as an enabler.
There, however, is a gleam of hope from, Private national and continental standpoint with emergence of AgTech solutions for information, market access, and climate warnings. The Federal Government of Nigeria Agricultural Productivity Policy which aims “a strategy that focuses on solving the core issues at the heart of limited food production and delivery of quality standards” Including but not limited to input access, De-risking agricultural lending, Improved productivity to mention but a few
In the same vein of hope, These integrated goals – High Fives’ of the African Development Bank aims at greatly improving Quality of Life, infrastructure across Africa (integrate Africa) as well as scale up energy generation and distribution (power Africa) which would greatly accelerate growth on the continent. Similarly, the Feed Africa strategy which amongst others focuses on ending extreme poverty and Making Africa a net exporter of Agricultural commodities In key to unlocking the potentials in rural areas.
However the sooner we begin to feel the impacts of these AgTech solutions, policies and strategies at the bottom of the pyramid would determine the fate of the likes of Tinu. As it would help her parents alongside millions of ruralites considerably rise out of poverty and improve their quality of life and that of their families.