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.