Post Covid Economy: Akwa Ibom Digitalizes Farming For Agribusiness.

UYO – With the grow­ing concern about the po­tential impact of the COVID-19 pandem­ic on Nigeria’s economy and the need to advance the agricultural and food systems, the Akwa Ibom State government on May 25, 2020, formally flag off farmers’ enumeration ex­ercise, to create a digital data-bank for farmers in the state.

Coordinated by the Akwa Ibom Invest­ment Company limited (AKIICORP) the Akwa Ibom Farmers’ Informa­tion Management System (AKFIMS) developed by El-kanis and Partners is designed to help farmers’ identify efficiencies that lead to higher productiv­ity and profitability and also better their opportu­nities to strengthen sup­ply chain relationship.

The initiative becomes a priority for the State Government in the de­velopment of policy and programmes necessary to gather farmers’ data so as to pinpoint the needs and challenges of farm­ers, draw out solutions to their needs based on the acquired data from the exercise, and also support Akwa Ibom State govern­ment in development of policy and programs re­garding food security.          

Akwa Ibom farmers enumeration exercise which began with Gov­ernor Udom Emmanuel as the number-one cocoa and plantain farmer in the state, will, according to Engr Ben Ekanikpong, Managing Director of El-kanis and Partners; help farmers to better manage their operations as their data will be stored in a digital and robust infor­mation and enterprise management system..

Designed to run for one full month, the exercise is meant to; in addition to capturing and retaining data of all farmers in the state, motivate the people of Akwa Ibom State to take agricultural activi­ties as serious business. It is also designed to create better opportunities for food value chain players to work together with oth­ers at a watershed-scale, make informed decisions and mitigate losses in the agriculture sector.

Speaking on the ini­tiative shortly after his enumeration, Gover­nor Udom Emmanuel thanked the Akwa Ibom Investment Company limited-AKIICORP for driving his vision in the agricultural sector. The Governor also applauded the partnership with El-kanis and Partners who will leverage technology to upscale agricultural development in the State, and assured them of his support to the realization of full cycle food value chain project that will en­sure availability of staple food across the state.

For the Akwa Ibom Governor, with such co­operation, agriculture will become a major driver of the state’s econ­omy, thereby bringing to an end, the over-depen­dence on government for survival.

The Governor who ac­knowledged that God has blessed Akwa Ibom with arable land, beautiful weather which encour­ages all year round plant­ing, therefore stressed the need for the people to harness the resources in the state and create wealth out of Agricul­ture.

 “Today, reference is made to Agriculture be­cause it is almost becom­ing the Nation’s main source of Revenue. Ev­eryone should do their best to create food and wealth from Agricul­ture. People should get involved in Agric and not retire back to depend on pension. The soil is fertile enough for all kinds of plant, so if we do not har­ness our natural resourc­es/endowment, we would have ourselves to blame”. Gov Emmanuel said.

Providing a deeper in­sight into the Akwa Ibom Farmers enumeration ex­ercise, Engr Ekanikpong said;

“With the development and storage of farmers’ data on AKFIMS plat­form, Government, de­velopment agencies and investors could assist farmers with targeted production information, access to credits as well as engagement of finan­cial and insurance insti­tutions.

“If you visit our vil­lage markets, you will see much of food produce in tonnes being wasted due to lack of buyers, meanwhile between Jan­uary and June 2019, NBS reported that Nigeria food import bill stood at N334.3B, so this platform enabled by data from the enumeration exercise will connect farmer’s produce to wider mar­kets such as AgriFood companies, processors and exporters, whereby reducing food importa­tion and strengthening our smallholder farmers.

“Farmers captured will have access to weath­er information, bridge de­mand and supply gap and will be provided with key information on the deliv­ery of crops and livestock and will strengthen mar­ket linkage through an agro-ecommerce plat­form Farmxshop – Online Shopping for Foodstuffs.

“We are in the second week of the exercise, and so far its going on well with minor hitches as usual. Very few farmers are still sceptical about the exercise and I want to use this medium to plead with the few to take ad­vantage of this exercise.

“One thousand five hundred (1,500) Enu­merators are presently working in 2,256 villages of the 31 LGAs of Akwa Ibom State. With 31 su­pervisors in each of the Local Government. We captured the data of the executive Governor HE Mr Udom Emmanuel who owns a 300Hectares Plantain and cocoa plan­tation which has been picked with GPS. Other members of the State Ex­ecutive council have been captured and their farm coordinates identified on GPS.

“So far we have collat­ed tens of thousands of already filled forms and more are still coming in. Farmers are excit­ed, Agrifood producers are optimistic that their high import bill will re­duce drastically as raw materials will be sourced locally”.

With the decline in oil revenue and the inaugu­ration of African Conti­nental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), Ekanikpong has joined the Akwa Ibom State government on a clarion call for Akwa Ibomites to see agricul­ture as real business and not just hobby.

“Our fertile soil and good weather condition positions Akwa Ibom as a hub for agribusiness development, mostly with the integration of technology in agricul­ture piloted by El-kanis and Partners.

Elkanis services can assist farmers to predict yield and perform crop scouting from drones services, sell directly to consumers through agro ecommerce platform www.farmxshop.com, hire tractors and request for loans and other ser­vices that ease the deliv­ery of value added ser­vices to farmers”. He said

Before initiating the enumeration exercise to identify and encour­age real farmers in the state, the Akwa Ibom State government, as re­ported by the Executive Director, Akwa Ibom In­vestment Company lim­ited (AKIICORP), Pastor Umoh Eno, has put in place massive infrastruc­tures to support farmers through off taking for processing mills, credit access through FADAMA microfinance bank and massive extension ser­vices deployed to all vil­lages through AKADEP.

“The State Governor particularly set up the Di­rectorate for Agricultur­al Investment whose term of reference is to ensure that they move the state from the culture of Sub­sistence Agriculture to the Business of Agricul­ture to boost food produc­tion, create wealth and employment. And now the full integration of technology to agricultur­al production will make it easy to access inputs and market. This is one way to encourage citizens to take agribusiness seriously “. He said.

Source: independent.ng

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