For the first time in Nigeria, farmers have commended the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) and the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES), a system where farmers access fertilisers and inputs through their mobile phones, as one of the best policies towards developing Nigerian agriculture.
The GES was created in 2012 with the sole aim of providing subsidised seeds and fertilisers to farmers, while at the same time, tackling the massive corruption practised in the system for over 40 years.
Adjudged the first of its kind in Africa, the GES is said to have eradicated corruption in the distributions of seeds and fertilisers as farmers could now access subsidised inputs directly instead of going through middle men who were alleged to have robbed them.
To ensure the sustenance of the ATA/GES, the federal government through the ministry of agriculture and rural development has concluded arrangements for the establishment of the National Agricultural Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (NAGESS) (giving legal backing to GES so that it becomes law) aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the GES programme after the present dispensation.
Speaking at a one-day stakeholders’ meeting on the Draft Bill for the Consolidation of the GES Scheme under the ATA of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), in Abuja recently, a legal consultant, Prof Yemi George, relying on statistics said that no administration since the commencement of Nigeria has recorded the success recorded in the ministry of agriculture under the present administration.
According to him, over 15 million farmers have been registered already as recorded on the data base.
“Close to 10 million farmers have been receiving agricultural inputs from the federal government with the cooperation of the states through the minister of agriculture,” Dr Akinwumi Adesina.
He said the NAGESS scheme would promote greater collaboration between the federal, states and local governments in facilitating the provision of the GES to agriculture in the country, create a framework for attracting and sustaining greater private sector investment in the provision of GES as well as boost agriculture in the country.
Reacting to the proposed bill, a small-holder farmer, Mallam Yunusa Jigir, was optimistic that the legalisation of the GES would not only be a boost to the activities of government but, would help Nigerian farmers access inputs better than ever.
“Since the introduction of the GES, many farmers have had better access to inputs than ever, even though I personally have not yet gotten, but unfortunately, except there is a law backing its continuity, it is bound to fail like many other projects in the country,” he said.
Jigir maintained that Nigeria has never had problem with churning out policies, but rather with the implementation.
“Today, President Jonathan’ s government has brought the GES, but if the government is over thrown today and another government comes in, the new government may decide to disregard the GES policy, so I support the legalisation of the policy,” he added.
Also speaking, the director, Farm Input Support Service Department, Osho Akinbolawa, asserted that if the bill is implemented, it will become a law that would support farmers.
He said, “Agriculture is an important sector of the economy, it is a source of employment, food security, and foreign exchange earnings and poverty reduction. The ATA is directly building on the president’s transformation agenda and recognition of the agriculture sector as one of the key drivers of the economy.
He further revealed that the number of registered farmers used in 2014 remains the same as 2013 (10.5 million) while additional four million farmers have been added to the platform making it 14.5 million farmers.
Speaking on the success of the scheme, minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said, “In the past it was recorded that less than 11 per cent small- holder farmers had access to the subsidised seeds and fertilisers procured and distributed by government , whereas government invested heavily in the sector, corrupt government officials profited to the detriment of small- holder farmers who could not access the subsidised inputs and even when they did, the inputs were adulterated.”
He attributed “the success of the scheme to the elimination of direct procurement and distribution of fertilisers and seeds as companies now sold directly to farmers rather than to government, contracts for such supplies were scrapped and government’s monopoly was also scrapped as procurement and supplies were left in the hands of private companies.”
The GES which was launched to provide targeted support to 20 million farmers within four years through the creation of a farmer data base had as at December 2013, over 10 million farmers, with over six million of them receiving the federal and state governments’ subsidised fertilisers and free seeds.
He said, “GES has empowered both farmers and agro-input dealers in several ways, it is farmer friendly as it allows farmers to conduct transactions in their local dialects, stimulates rapid growth in the agro input private sector, while the programme has saved government a lot of money through direct contributions by farmers, state and federal government, among other successes.