‘It’s not true’ – Agric minister denies N60 billion will be spent on phones for farmers



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. As a responsible Minister, who takes public accountabilty and probity very seriously, there is absolutely no way in the world that I will even contemplate or approve such an expenditure. All our focus as Government is on creating jobs in Nigeria, not exporting jobs elsewhere.

Let me clarify and explain our policy.

Reaching farmers through phones:

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 modernizing 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.

The Power of information:

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.

Our goal is to empower every farmer. No farmer will be left behind. We will reach them in their local languages and use mobile phones to trigger an information revolution which will drive an agricultural revolution.

Why cell phones?

Nigeria has 110 million cellphones, the largest in Africa. But there is a huge divide: the bulk of the phones are in urban areas. The rural areas are heavily excluded. For agriculture, which employs 70% of the population, that means the farmers are excluded and marginalized. In today’s world, the most powerful tool is a mobile phone. As Minister of Agriculture, I want the entire rural space of Nigeria, and farmers, to be included, not excluded, from advantages of mobile phone revolution.

Below are some of them:

Access to inputs:

First, the mobile phones will be used to scale up the access of farmers to improved seeds and fertilizers to millions of farmers, directly. The federal government succeeded in 2012 in getting seeds and fertilizers to farmers, via the Growth Enhancement Support (GES), which used mobile phones to reach farmers with subsidized inputs. The system ended 40 years of corruption on fertilizers and cut off rent seekers and middlemen who – for decades – have entrenched massive corruption of the fertilizer sector. Government succeeded. The GES system reached over 1.2 million farmers in 120 days in 2012.

We succeeded because we used mobile phones to reach farmers directly and cut off the middle men and those who have cheated farmers for decades. We empowered the poor farmers, with many getting subsidized seeds and fertilizers from government for the first time ever. We brought transparency into what was perhaps the most corrupt system in Nigeria. We ended fertilizer corruption of four decades, in 90 days, because of mobile phone tools we deployed.

Revolutionary tool:

This is a revolution. Nigeria is the first country in Africa to develop such a system. The system has garnered international acclaim. Other African countries now want to learn from Nigeria. Major donors, including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID of the UK Government, USAID, World Bank, IFAD and the Africa Development Bank, want to scale up the GES system to other countries.

How we will operate:

From 2013, government intends to distribute 10 million phones, so we can reach more millions of farmers with the GES scheme for subsidized inputs. We expect to reach at least 5 million farmers in 2013 with GES for access to subsidized inputs.

So, farmers who get mobile phones will be registered and we will use their biometric information to reach them with electronic vouchers for seeds and fertilizers.

Second, mobile phones will allow farmers to have financial inclusion, as financial institutions such as commercial banks and microfinance banks will be able to reach them with affordable savings and loans products. The phones will make the financial inclusion of the CBN in rural areas possible.

Third, the phones will make market price information available to farmers nationwide. Farmers lose a lot in marketing their produce. Middle men make all the profits. Farmers end up selling their products at very poor prices. This is because farmers do not have access to market price information. There is asymmetry of market price information. For many farmers their only sources of market price information are the middlemen. Mobile phones will allow us to get market price information to farmers, improve market access and empower farmers. This will allow farmers to have countervailing power in the market place.

Fourth, we will use mobile phones to provide extension information to farmers, as part of our total overhaul of the extension system in the country. With a “Farmer Help Line” it will be possible to connect extension workers, colleges of agriculture, faculties of agriculture, and other experts to provide free extension services to farmers by interactive voice mail. This will include when to plant, what to plant, agronomic practices etc. At the dial of a number, the wealth of knowlege of experts will be connected to the farmers, anywhere they are in Nigeria – free of charge. Such a “Farmer Help Line” system is already in use in Kenya by poor farmers, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Fifth, the phones will allow the dissemination of real time weather information to farmers. It will be possible to alert farmers on drought or floods and reduce vulnerabilities to shocks. In case of the floods we witnessed last year, simple alerts over mobile phones would have saved many lives and helped farmers to know what to do.

Finally, the expanded number of phones in rural areas will support the expansion of rural telephony. Presently, the rural areas are not being served well by mobile operators, and are marginalized. With the expansion of mobile phones to millions of farmers, mobile phone operators will expand the number of base stations they have in rural areas. This will reduce the digital and communications exclusion of rural areas, where agriculture is the main source of income and jobs. The cost of calls in rural areas will also decline.

How will this be financed?

The distribution of the phones will be supported through an MoU signed between the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Communications Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with the Ministry of Women Affairs. Out of the 10 million phones, 5 million will go to women. The Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), which supports expansion of mobile operators into rural areas, through a tax, will support this initiative, in partnership with Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. We intend to work with existing mobile operators in Nigeria through a public-private partnership.


Dr. Akinwumi Adesina

Comments (11)

  1. Mr Minister, at least I did not hear you deny the budget for this venture. I have reservations on this issue of buying phones to farmers for these reasons viz;.
    1.The usage of phones is predicated on charging and recharging, the electricity supply to urban centers is poor, how much more rural areas, then the funds to recharge the phones(buy airtime), any person who can recharge a phone for a month can as well have a phone. With less than #6000, one can get a new phone.
    2. I could even challenge you to do a study on the cardinal need of farmers. They'll tell you; fertilizers, good seedlings and an efficient road network to link their communities with urban markets. The first two are most important to them. Accessing loans is hardly a function of communication through phones. Rural campaigns with lesser funds would bring this to their notice.
    3. Lastly to put the nail into this coffin, there is hardly any serious rural farmer, albeit poverty stricken that lacks a handset. Conduct a genuine study not just hypothesis from your comfort zones.
    This is another avenue to waste funds. #60 billion would go a long way if loans or grants are even given the end rural farmers, not middlemen. Once again you can reach these persons by going directly to them like you would even if you were to give them phones.

    1. Nigerian politicians wil alwax be blind 2 d truth,d whole issue of 60billion on cellphones seems 2 me lik a movie be rehearsed,do dey alwax lose der brain wen dey gt into powa?

    2. Well, I have heard and read abt this policy, the argument of d Min of Agric is that they want to expand the market of farmers thru cell phone and expose them to information so as to meet global technology. May I add quickly that fertiliser is part of the policy. My logomachy is;
      1. The money earnmarked for this is too astronomical.
      2. What plans have they to train these farmers most of whom are illiterate persons, on the use of this 'supposed' browsing enabled phones, of course a normal phone can't achieve their aim if nt a browsing phone. Rather than phones why nt computer workstations (connected computers) so they can research, or be oriented online regularly on farming technology
      3. Irrigation network should ve bn enhanced.
      4. Chemicals (pesticide, insecticide etc.) Should have been given to them.
      5. Accessible roads to these communities should ve been looked into for easy disposal of farm produce.
      6. Storage facilities should have bn enhanced technologically
      7. Feeds for livestocks should have bn subsided with part of that money and lastly
      8. Farmers' Education on modern farming technique should bn done. If the policy is void of all these, then it is fluffy and lacking in truism of purpose.

      Gabor Vincent
      Political & Public Affairs Analyst
      Education Consultant
      ICT Professional.

  2. My question here is, did the farmers complained of not having phones, and why should a whopping sum of 60billion naira be spent for buy phones, what calibre of phones are they going to buy that will do all work as mentioned by Mr. Minister and for how many farmers. I strongly believe that, this is another plot for them to steal from the national pocket to feel their personal drums. What kind of a country is this, that our leaders are always indirectly calling the people they are leading fools. I tell you, if the youth of this country do not wake up, this country will drained and dragged to the pit.

  3. I have patiently read the MInister's explanation for wanting to avail farmers and women mobile phones to speed up access to information. I can say with a measure of confidence that it is a sheer waste of resources and a wrong approach towards tackling the dissemination of information. Most farmers presently have mobile phones and for those who do not have, somebody close to them, either a wife, child or close relation in the neighborhood has and can obtain information through these third parties. Aren't you surprised that information got to rural communities in the colonial days through the king's town crier. As crude as this form was, it is not a problem getting information to rural farmers if government can empower agricultural extension services in various communities as well as have a direct contact through mobile telephony to the traditional chiefs in the areas. There is hardly any community that does not have television or radio sets and as such communicating with rural communities cannot be a problem. If INEC could reach rural communities to register rural voters and conducted elections there without procuring phones, why then should it be difficult for the Ministry of Agriculture to do same? Please w have had enough of policy somersaults and decisions that are less altruistic and look more like corrupt acts rather than attempts at alleviating the problems of society. You are a highly respected, hardworking minister and should please avoid such controversies as this in your own interest and that of the country that you serve. It is well with you. Wish you a happy new year.

  4. Useless talk.pls use d money to provide farm facilites and distribut to d farmer,this communication idae is nt bad but most farmers now have their fons,so jus creat some hotlines mainly for this programme atleast its another way of creating job opptnts.pll shud be employed mainly for ds purpose to watch over the programme.instead of tkn our money to china to purchase fons ,why not employ ds youths with the money.pls thnk about it cos You most answer this if the project fails.

  5. hehehe….! This people has come again this year. Mr minister you have to think twice and do ur calculations well before bringing out idea… We are all human and not fools that does not know calculations. 10million times 6000 is 60million.

  6. So Mr Minister how much will be spent on the phones. Is 10million times 6000 not 60million?

  7. Hehehe, this people don chop our money finish o! Na Nokia 3310 go do all that work banking and information generation plus weather and input development work?

    Plus the minister kept ranting about the interior, has it occured to them that those interiors dont have 1) light to power the phones. 2) many probably didnt go to school and thus cant read even their own language (abi na call dem go dey call them? Who go dey pay for the call?) And most importantly, 3)No network in all of the real 'interiors'?

    Abi they think that the farmers who thinks his problem is a phone of the 3310 calibre wouldnt already have one?

    Lets assume the telephony story is credible, have they found out how many of the farmers they plan to give phones already have phones?

    Which kind country be this self? Our government dey plan to kill us die o!

    We go siddin dey look them?

  8. Instead of buying these fons,get a hotline that all farmers can reach out to the govt,spend more on employment than wasting to buy fons.its better you creat an avenue, give lines whic the farmers can reach you,it means creating another job opptny.at least some ppl wl be employed mainly for this purpose.mr minister,pls ppl are sufering.give them fertilizer,provide tractors and other facilities with these monies.

  9. With all his explanation 10 million phones for farmer multiply by 6000 is still 60 billion so he think we are fools or we can not read within d lines. Dr Akinwuinmi shd go back and rethink before he would make another press release

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