CropIT Nigeria Limited (CropIT) in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have concluded plans to launch a robust digital platform that will impact more than 5,000,000 farmers and over 100,000 agricultural extension officers.

The initiative, which is grounded in the agricultural firm’s innovation partnership approach, will support the expansion of high-impact, digitally-enabled services to farmers and extension officers across Nigeria over the next three years.

CropIT is an agriculture specialist company and a developer that provides financing, management, advisory and services to producers, farmers and investors in the agricultural sector within Nigeria and overseas. Its mission is to employ technical know-how to increase smallholder income and productivity by 50 per cent reaching at least 40 per cent women across Nigeria. It was created with the vision to transform Africa’s agriculture by deploying a comprehensive and innovative approach and solutions with strong international backing.

The digital platform, which has leading organisations including MTN and 9mobile as strategic partners, will create a knowledge-based farmer society and a well-structured extension officers network. For the farmer, the platform will offer access to reliable and affordable agricultural information, certification of extension officers, development of agriculture protocols, e-advisory, and transactional services across major value chains including rice, cassava, soybeans, cowpea, maize, sorghum, cashew, livestock and fish through their mobile phones.

These services are to be delivered through onsite extension workers and mobile devices using toll free calls and messages as well as physical and digital call centres as service medium to provide wide coverage over the dispersed farming settlements with limited rural infrastructure.

According to Chairman, CropIT, Alhaji Nasir Ado Bayero, “Nigerian agriculture has potential but no one can eat potential. We must articulate a clear vision to make Nigeria an agriculturally industrialised economy to create wealth, jobs and markets for farmers, ensure food security and revive the rural extension system to reduce losses. Agriculture and our small farmers in particular, must become the engine for growth. Africa and Nigeria in particular can feed the world. To do so, we must make a fundamental paradigm shift; agriculture should be seen as a business and not a development programme. It must be structured, developed and financed as a business for us to fully unlock its potential. Gains will not come easy but as we do the right things we will succeed.”

The digital era offers many innovations and breakthrough opportunities which will enable the African continent to get ahead of the curve and more efficiently and sustainably unlock the full potential of its smallholder farmers and agribusiness sector.

Going forward, the benefits of agricultural digitalisation will require governments to do more to encourage more private sector investment across the value chain in areas as diverse as production, post-harvest handling, processing, access to information, market, finance and effective supply chain because countries that have adopted such strategies are already reaping the benefits. Nigeria is just starting.

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