Thursday, 3 January 2013

FG to give rural farmers N60bn cell phones

As part of its efforts to modernise agriculture, the Federal Government has said it has concluded arrangements to empower 10 million farmers in the rural areas across the country with cell phones.
The distribution of the cell phones worth about N60bn to the benefiting rural farmers is expected to commence by the end of the first quarter of this year.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, who disclosed this on Tuesday during a sensitisation and orientation programme organised in Igan Ipabi for farmers in Ijebu East Local Government Area of Ogun State, said the fund for the project had already been provided by the government.
She also said that farmers would get 50 per cent subsidy on fertiliser and other necessary assistance from the government.
Odusote said that the plan was part of the e-Wallet project under which the ministry officials would be able to educate, inform and communicate with the farmers in the rural areas across the country on the latest and best agricultural practices, as well as the current prices of commodities in the market.
She said the provision of the cell phones to the rural farmers was being undertaken by the Agriculture and Rural Development ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Communication Technology.
The permanent secretary added that the Ministry of Communication Technology had already discussed with the various service providers on how to execute the project.
Odusote said the 10 million cell phones would be procured from manufacturers in China and the United States, adding that the two countries also had interest in investing in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
She said, “We are talking about 10 million phones. Each phone will be about N4,000 or N6,000 because they are in large quantities, we are not just going to buy them in pieces like that. Probably, we will buy direct from the manufacturing companies.
 “As part of the e-Wallet, that is, electronic wallet, which we are promoting; the handsets will be the tool with which we will communicate with farmers in the rural areas. Deep into the interiors, we will be able to communicate with them.
“We are actually working with the Ministry of Communication Technology, which is talking to the network providers. We have agreed that they are going to expand their networks into the rural areas where normally they will say there is no economic viability. But because the Federal Government will be putting some support into this, they will go into the hinterlands and create and expand their networks so that we can have access.”
The permanent secretary also said because of the problem of inadequate power supply, the rural farmers that would benefit from the e-wallet project would also be provided with solar-powered lamps with which they could charge the cell phones.
Odusote said, “They (farmers) will be able to charge their phones because we are looking at the complete value chain concerning this matter. And the emphasis is on women and young people, the youth, so that the ageing population of farmers can actually rest and the younger generation that will understand what we are talking about in terms of electronic systems will be able to come alive and take over farming in Nigeria.
“We are creating awareness and as we are doing so, we are calling young people to begin to take interest in the rural areas and farms, and we are encouraging them by creating enabling environment for them so that they can now find it convenient to do what we are asking them to do. We look forward to getting good results.”
The Regional Director, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Olalekan Quadri, said plans had reached an advanced stage to ensure that farmers had access to mechanised implements.
He said farmers would also seize the opportunity of the cell phones to be given them to transact business and sell their produce with less stress.

Culled from Punch NG

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