NIRSAL unveils platform to improve productivity of smallholder farmers
The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending on Thursday launched the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School (NFBS) to improve the productivity and income of small holder farmers across the country.
NBFS is a mobile learning platform that is based on Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology and does not require smartphones or internet connectivity to function; and designed to build the capacity of farmers on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
Aliyu Abdulhameed, Managing Director/CEO of NIRSAL Plc, said this at the launch of the NFBS in Abuja. He informed that the platform was developed by Successory Nigeria Limited, in collaboration with FBIS Technologies and MTN Nigeria.
The MD explained that the platform will sustainably address the lack of access to information which is critical to the success of production cycles, particularly in the face of changing weather and climatic conditions.
Abdulhammed said this while noting that rural farmers have limited or no access to vital information on best practice, finance availability, growth management and the needs of the market.
According to him, the platform will help farmers to make better decisions in real-time by providing vital information seamlessly.
He added “The platform will improve farm yields thereby lessening the risk of loan defaults and ultimately help transition Nigeria’s farmers from an era of agriculture to the new era of agribusiness.
“It will boost the yield and productivity of farmers leading to higher revenue per hectare or per unit of production, and thus better the capacity of farmers to repay their loans and generate surplus income.”
The MD further allayed concerns that the platform may be too sophisticated and expensive for some rural farmers to use. He said that pre-design research and situational analyses took such concerns into account, hence, the product is a multi-language, offline on-the-go platform that can be accessed via any mobile phone – smart or not.
In terms of cost, Abdulhameed said that at N100 per week, a subscriber could access all the courses and assessments due to them, and at their own pace.
He added that a N50 fee would apply for access to additional market opportunities, weather forecasts/updates, and special deals, while with N20 only, subscribers could procure step-by-step guidance on specific farm activities such as pest control and fertilizer application.
Abdulhameed emphasized the importance of the platform to NIRSAL Plc, its owners the CBN, the Federal Government, Banks, and other investors in agricultural primary production as it will promote the inclusion of farmers in the use of ICT and limit physical classroom engagements in line with the new normal.
Adekunle Adebiyi, Chief Sales Distribution Officer of MTN Nigeria, speaking at the that MTN’s peerless network connectivity in Nigeria will serve as the conduit for a seamless, continuous, and cost-effective interaction between NIRSAL Plc and farmers, which will lead to improved productivity and earnings across board.
Adebiyi declared MTN’s resolution to further support the initiative with free SIM cards for farmers as a way of accelerating the take-off of the platform and the onboarding of millions of farmers.
Situated in all 36 states of the federation and the FCT, NIRSAL’s Project Monitoring, Reporting and Remediation Offices (PMRO) were provided with the product short code in advance to ground truth and to understand the approaches for onboarding users on new and existing MTN SIM cards.
A brief demo of the platform revealed its paced, multi-language interactivity, as well as ease of navigation. The demo was conducted by Mr. Isaiah Bendi, Managing Director/CEO of FBIS Technologies, who expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in a project with potentials for massive national impact.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications of the CBN, Osita Nwanisobi, who was also present at the launch event applauded NIRSAL Plc and its partners for the initiative
He said, “As the lead developer of the product, Successory’s job is not done yet as it would oversee the on boarding process of subscribers and address whatever teething challenges that occur. Beyond that, the company is to ensure that the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School continues to give value to NIRSAL Plc and the farmers who use the platform to boost their capacities and productivity.
Incidentally, the launch of the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School (NFBS) follows the ongoing provision of Strategic Business Support Services (SBSS) by NIRSAL Plc nationwide. Challenged by a general apathy amongst smallholder farmers towards scholarly mentorship programs, and an insatiable appetite for government grants, the delivery of the SBSS will be enhanced by the ease and convenience offered by the NFBS.