Farmers consisting of all commodity associations in Nigeria have come out with one voice to support the Federal Government's plan to issue mobile phones to 10 million farmers.
However, the farmers demanded that the phones should be solar-powered because of the power situation in the rural areas.
According to the farmers the phones are necessary if the various agricultural initiatives of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to improve the sector are to succeed. They made their position clear in an all-farmers solidarity media briefing held in Lagos in support of the federal government's cell phone for rural farmers' project.
In his remark, facilitator of the conference and National President, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, Segun Adewumi, noted that Nigerian farmers across the value chain need to be adequately informed on climatic conditions, weather forecasts and time-table for planting if they were to advance to the level of agribusiness.
"Contrary to what a lot of people say, Nigerian farmers are not ignorant folks. However the intended phones need to be customised to make use of solar powered batteries as constant supply of power remains a major challenge in the rural areas where sun light is never in short supply," he said.
He also recommended that the distribution of the phones to actual farmers should be made to go through commodity associations in order to ensure transparency and curb the influence of politicians.
"Nigeria, as we know, is a nation of peculiarities, we therefore agree with the interventions that will allow checking and cross-checking of delivery of inputs to the farmers by the constituted and delegated authorities, which shall include farmers," he said.
The farmers further recommended that the phones network provider should be able to cover all the rural areas so that a farmer could be able to actually make calls from his farm.
They said that they were giving their support to the scheme because of the level of transparency and positive changes being witnessed in the agricultural sector under President Goodluck Jonathan's administration.
"Nigerians are fully aware that that agricultural inputs project, especially procurement of and distribution of fertiliser was a project of fraud in the past. Most consignments of fertiliser paid for by the federal government never arrived in the country while those that arrived were mismanaged and sold across the Nigerian border."
"This is why a change has to come, which the present administration through the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has felt compelled to make. We farmers are therefore in full support of this change," Adewumi said.
The farmers further said that they have seen the benefits of the cell phone project beyond provision of communication between the government and the farmers.
"We began to see that the project will ensure full consolidation and success for the various innovative Agricultural programmes of the present regime. We have reasons to believe that they will ensure that the programme outlives the regime initiating it," he said.
He stressed the need to extend the scope of the programme to include capturing the complete profile of each small-holder farmer for the purpose of planning for input supply.
They also canvassed the need to make farming able to compete favorably with other professions for graduates of agriculture.
"NYSC members should be seconded and trained in Agricultural Extension Services, and after their youth corps service will be given 10 hectares of land in their states and offered monthly allowance that will be deducted from the proceeds of their harvests. Five hectares will be added to their portions yearly until they have 25 hectares and can make about N4million profit in a year," he said.