Agriculture is broadly divided into four sectors in Nigeria; crop production, fishing, livestock and forestry. Crop production remains the largest segment, and it accounts for about 87.6% of the sector's total output. This is followed by livestock, fishing and forestry at 8.1%, 3.2% and 1.1%, respectively. Agriculture remains the largest sector in Nigeria, contributing an average of 24% to the nation's GDP over the past seven years (2013 – 2019). The agricultural sector employs more than 36% of the country's labour force, a feat that ranks the sector as the largest employer of labour.
Nigeria has 70.8 million hectares of agricultural land, with maize, cassava, guinea corn, yam beans, millet, and rice being the major crops. Nigeria's rice production rose from 3.7 million metric tons in 2017 to 4.0 million metric tons in 2018. Until the discovery of crude oil in 1956, farmers grew sufficient food to meet local demand. They could export a surplus of cash crops, including groundnuts, palm oil, and cotton. The agriculture sector accounted for more than 60 per cent of gross domestic product. The ongoing poverty amongst small-scale farmers is due to a series of problems that include the everyday use of manual farming tools, poor agricultural extension systems, poor road networks, inadequate market information, lack of access to credit and quality inputs such as fertilizers and poor government policies. As crude oil dominated Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings, agricultural productivity shrank due to neglect and underinvestment. Soon, local food production struggled to meet demand amid a growing population and ensure that farmers were not making any gains, which kept them in a cycle of poverty. The decline in the quality of life is so surprising given the potentials that the agricultural industry has. A World Bank report discovered that half of working Nigerians are in smallholder farming. Yet, this group accounts for the poorest 40 per cent of the population compared to only 17 per cent of wage workers. Recent research found that 78% of rural small-scale farmers are financially excluded, and only 25% frequently use financial services. Access to credit is even lower; despite accounting for 44% of Nigeria's GDP overall, the agricultural sector only receives 2% of the total loans by commercial banks in Nigeria. Another surprising information gleaned from the report is the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics claim in 2020 that 40% or 83 million Nigerians live in poverty. It is estimated that the number of poor people will increase to 90 million, or 45% of the population, in 2022. This means that most of the problems the agricultural sector in Nigeria suffers from are economic. However, when there is a decline in food production, it usually results in a myriad of issues that trickles down to every sector in the country.
The Agricultural industry is a vital economic sector with high potentials for employment generation, food security and poverty reduction. The vision of the transformation strategy is to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through an agricultural sector that drives income growth, accelerates the achievement of food and nutritional security, generates employment and transforms Nigeria into the leading player that it should be in global food markets. Some possible avenues for implementing this transformation strategy includes;
· The introduction and development of practical, homemade agricultural mechanization technologies
· Encouraging and engaging in adaptive and innovative research geared towards developing indigenous machines for farming and introducing new processing techniques.
· Designing and developing low-cost and easy to use equipment that can be manufactured with locally available materials, skills and facilities. This equipment will be standardized and certified by the Standard Organizations of Nigeria (SON).
The industry also needs sophisticated technology such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. These advanced devices and precision agricultural systems allow farming businesses and industrial ranches to be more profitable, efficient, safer, and environmentally friendly. To effectively drive this agrarian transformation plan, we will also need modern irrigation practices to ensure all year farming, humidifiers to prevent produce from perishing, and temperature-controlled shipping containers that will help tackle the persistent problem of food wastage.
Other vital technologies, such as digital financial services for Farmers, need to be improved upon. Over 38 million smallholder farmers in Nigeria lack access to finance to increase their agricultural production. However, this is where Crop2cash comes in. Crop2cash enables smallholder farmers in rural Nigeria to receive digital payments and build their financial identity. We are digitalizing the industry by creating tools for smallholder farmers to increase their productivity and make profits at the end of the day. We are also promoting prosperity through our agricultural innovations and technology by providing the farmers with tools that give them access to ease. Farming activities like Mechanization, Quality input procurement, accurate advisory services, and insurance are provided on the platform and targeted at delivering a seamless cultivation and harvesting process for smallholder farmers and guaranteeing profits at the end of the day. Crop2Cash addresses the problematic financial exclusion of farmers by unlocking access to affordable financing for smallholder farmers in Nigeria using technology. To expose these farmers to opportunities, we are developing innovative solutions to the challenges they are experiencing.
Crop2Cash' has a proprietary USSD platform that allows farmers to access credit for farm inputs or rent farm machinery. Furthermore, farmers can also purchase insurance, access vital weather information, and buy other advisory services. The root of Crop2Cash's innovation is employing data and a user interface that applies to the lifestyle of rural farmers. Farmers can start by registering on the platform using a USSD shortcode. After registration, a simple USSD menu allows farmers to create digital accounts. Once fully set up, farmers can immediately access a menu of particular products and services they can purchase at discounted rates. They can also use their account to keep track of their transactions and other farming activities. With a network of about 15,000 farmers spread across Northern and South-Western Nigeria, nearly 60% of Crop2Cash's customers admit that crop2cash afforded them their first digital financial services, which translated into meaningful feedback for us. The opportunities for growth and expansion are unparalleled as the company keeps perfecting its model. Since about 60% of sub-Saharan Africa's estimated 1.14 billion inhabitants are smallholder farmers who produce up to 70% of the continent's food supply, we can comfortably say that empowering them and their businesses will improve the well-being of the entire region promote agric induced prosperity.
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