By Khalifa Nuruddeen Abande
President Muhammadu Buhari’s exclusive interview to Channels Television means different things to different groups of people across the world.
Abande, writes from Kano, and can be reached at email@example.com
Digital Technology, Agriculture and the Increasing Population
By Inyene Ibanga
Agriculture is going through a revolution. As the world’s population estimates increase from seven billion to ten billion by 2050, the demand for food and agricultural produce will certainly continue to be on the ascendance.
While demand for food is growing, the supply side faces the challenges of changing environmental and climatic conditions, dwindling water supply, shortage of arable land and farming inputs, the rapid rate of urbanisation thats reducing available land for agriculture, and a host of other problems.
To mitigate these challenges, farmers must continue to innovate and embrace digital technology to improve productivity to meet domestic and external demand.
Digital agriculture refers to practices that digitally collect, store, analyse, and share electronic data and information along the agricultural value chain.
It is the use of digital technologies, integrated into one system, to enable farmers and other stakeholders to improve agricultural production from the farm to the consumer.
Technologies such as mobile telephony, robotics, remote sensor technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence, and many others, provide the agricultural industry the tools and information to make more informed decisions and boost productivity.
Digital technologies can be part of the solution because they have the potential to provide farmers with the information and ability to address challenges and harness opportunities for growth.
Significant economic, social, and environmental benefits are delivered through the application of digital technologies, thereby transforming agriculture by offering new opportunities to improve efficiency, policy, and the performance of the agricultural value chain.
Digital technologies help to improve the traceability of agricultural products and increase value for farmers across the four main branches of livestock production, crop production, agricultural economics, and agricultural engineering.
For instance, the spread of mobile technologies and remote-sensing services are helping to improve the access of smallholder farmers to information, inputs, markets, finance, increasing productivity, while reducing operational costs.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal of a world with zero hunger by 2030 will require an urgent transformation of the current agri-food system.
The FAO notes that the next wave of technological efforts to sustain the fast-growing global population will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve the precision and sustainability of farming techniques.
For this reason, the global agri-food organisation, in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), developed the E-agricultural Strategy Guide to assist countries in developing their national e-agricultural strategy and master plan.
Agricultural activities provides livelihoods for many Nigerians. These are important activities for the country’s economy after oil and gas. Between July and September 2021, the agricultural sector contributed almost 30 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.
Although digital transformation has impacted key sectors of the economy, the same cannot be said about the agricultural sector. Sadly, the incessant insecurity in many parts of the country has worsened by the fare of farmers.
In the face of these challenges, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, through its’ agencies, has introduced several initiatives to create opportunities that attract younger persons to gainfully engage in the agricultural ecosystem.
One of such initiatives is the recent partnership between the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and three federal universities in Nigeria to advance research into and the application of digital technology in farming to speed up the actualisation of the country’s food security.
The pilot schemes are slated to commence at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Federal University, Dutse (FUD), and University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), as part of the strategies to digitally transform activities along the agriculture value chain in Nigeria.
Speaking on the partnership, the Director-General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi noted that the application of digital technologies in farming would reduce the quantity of water, fertilisers, and labour required, while also increasing yield and creating sustainable wealth.
“Using technology in farming will help the country optimise this sector, improve production, reduce waste, facilitate access to markets, and thereby put Nigeria on the path of food security and substantial income generation.”
The NITDA boss expressed optimism that digital agriculture would attract Nigeria’s younger population to farming and boost the country’s National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy to properly position a leading player in the global digital economy.
Agriculture remains a critical source for livelihoods and employment and the transformative power of digital technologies is bringing agriculture back to youths.
Additionally, the Nigeria Digital Agriculture Strategy (NDAS; 2020-2030) provides the policy direction for collaboration among key stakeholders in the agriculture value chain to boost domestic food security and gain access to global markets.
There is no doubt that digital agriculture is here to stay. So, NITDA should redouble efforts towards effectively bridging the digital divides by promoting rural digital literacy, gender inclusion, and the Nigerian Agricultural Platform initiatives as outlined in the NDAS.
Inyene Ibanga writes from Wuye District, Abuja; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AfCFTA: Expert Advocates Value Creation for Agro Products Before Export
A former Director General of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), John Isemede, has said that for Nigeria to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area ( AfCFTA) it must add value to its agricultural products before export.
He noted that Nigeria is ripe to process raw/crude in finished products with value addition to run the chain with the rest of the world.
In an interview with newsmen, Isemede said, “For us to achieve this we must add value to our raw materials, remove all the restrictions, all the roadblocks, provides incentives and support to manufacturers.
“Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) instead of assisting and looking for markets are fighting, duplicating issues and often on revenue as well as selling certificates that often end in our ports as rejections galore.”
While commenting on the 2022 Budget , he said, “When will Nigeria hit the ground running and think less of loans, aid from donors and support from those who are out for just one purpose of exploitation and subjugation?
“There is nowhere our national export strategic plans/ target to exporters appeared in the 2022 budget, but we can see loans, debt servicing; etc and none on national export inflows or what to expect from the latest AfCFTA gains as envisaged at the signing ceremony.”
Wheat Maintains Lead on Import Chart
By Joseph Amah, Abuja
Bulk wheat led the Lagos import chart for a better part of the year 2021, indication that the confectionary industry enjoyed a boom as more Nigerians accessed wheat products.
Wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice.
Shipping position emanating from the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, shows that a total 243,073 metric tons of bulk wheat was imported for the month of December 2021 as against 173, 362 metric tons in previous month of November.
The next big import was General Cargo with a record of 165,139 metric tons in December, over 150 percent from 62, 843 metric tons in November.
Other commodities that made the chart includes general cargo165,139 metric tons in December, as against 62,843 metric tons in November of 2012 coming third position is sugar which recorded a total of 183,400 metric tons in the month of December and November recorded 163,000 metric tons.
Others are fish with 16,634 metric tons in December and 14,203 metric tons in November according to the statistical data from the Nigerian Ports Authority.
Reacting to the increased in importation of wheat, Chairman of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers, Mr. Ishaq Abdulraheem said that only people benefitting from the imports were the millers like Honey well, Flour Mills and others.
Abdulraheem also said that the non-production of wheat in Nigeria is also responsible for the high rate of wheat import despite the Federal Government wheat farming initiative which also came with some loans incentive to wheat farmers.
He suggested that ten percent of cassava potato flour should be used as parts of the condiments by confectioners so as to reduce the nation’s heavy reliance of imported wheat.
We need to start from somewhere as the cassava addition to wheat, Nigerian will still get the same quality of bread and other wheat products by this, we will be saving foreign exchange on importation of wheat.
According to him “Importation of wheat is creating market for the millers, we the users are suffering. For example, Flours Mills of Nigeria declared a surplus in the financial results because of their involvement in value chain of wheat at the detriment of wheat farmers.”
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