This Day (Lagos)

5 January 2013

Nigeria: Minister Denies Purchase of N60 Billion Phones for Farmers

Nigeria's Agricultural Ministry has moved forward with a controversial plan to provide the country's farmers with cellphones. These phones will be ... ( Resource: Phones for Nigeria's Farmers

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has denied reports that the federal government intends to buy mobile phones worth N60b for distribution to farmers.

A statement signed by the Minister and made available to THISDAY explained that the ministry's Permanent Secretary "was totally misquoted out of context."

He said: "My attention has been drawn to the issue of 60 Billion Naira to be spent on phones for farmers, reported in some media sites and papers. The information is absolutely incorrect. My Permanent Secretary was totally misquoted out of context. There is no 60 Billion Naira for phones anywhere. Let me clarify and explain our policy.

"The policy the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is promoting is to get mobile phones to farmers, as part of its agricultural transformation agenda, to connect farmers to information, expand their access to markets, improve their access to savings and loans, and help them adapt to climate change dynamics that affect them and their livelihoods. We are also rapidly modernising agriculture, and have moved away from agriculture as a development program to agriculture as a business, so we must modernize and use new tools to reach our farmers.

"Agriculture today is more knowledge-intensive and we will modernize the sector, and get younger (graduate) entrepreneurs into the sector, and we will arm them with modern information systems. Whether small, medium or large farmers they all need information and communication systems. Connecting to supermarkets and international markets require that farmers know and meet stringent consumer-driven grades and standards. In today's supply chains, the flow of information from buyers to farmers must be instant, to meet rapidly changing demands. Unless farmers have information at their finger tips, they will lose out on market opportunities", the statement said.

Adesina said the ministry's goal is to empower every farmer so that no farmer will be left behind and reach them in their local languages and use mobile phones to trigger an information revolution which will drive an agricultural revolution.

He explained that Nigeria has 110 million cell phones, the largest in Africa, but that the bulk of the phones are in urban areas.

- NAN

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