Agriculture is one sector that is indispensable in the area of economic growth, food security, poverty alleviation, as well as subsistence and rural development in Nigeria. This is because, directly or indirectly, a greater population of rural inhabitants in Nigeria depend on agriculture for their livelihood and survival. In addition, most Nigerians are now getting involved in one farming activity or the other. However, despite its importance, the agricultural sector is still far from attaining its full potential. One key limiting factor is the detachment of many smallholder farmers, in most cases in the rural areas, from technology and most vital agricultural support services needed to carry out adequate farming activities.
The importance of agricultural extension and advisory services to smallholder farmers for improved agricultural productivity has always, been emphasized by international development community. According to the IFPRI, agricultural extension will continue to play a crucial role in the promotion of agricultural productivity. Other stated areas include increasing food security, rural livelihoods improvement, and the promotion of agriculture as an engine for pro-poor economic growth. Extension and advisory services are thus relevant to farmers and when they are combined with access to credit as well as improved market linkages, could help in tackling global poverty and improving farm productivity; most especially when the services are timely and appropriate.
The aspect of timely and relevant information, especially with the emergence of digital extension and advisory services for farmers, has received much attention in the last decade. Besides, leveraging on digital technologies to provide extension and advisory services to farmers has not just proven to be more effective but has also allowed smallholder farmers to receive prompt feedback. For instance, the digital-enabled platform, FarmAid launched by Farm Innovation Nigeria Limited, to provide e-extension services and digital advisory services to smallholder farmers in Nigeria, is impacting more than 30,000 rural farmers. This digitized platform provides farmers with much-needed information on good agricultural practices, market linkages information, local weather forecast and other value-added services. These services are provided through short Messaging Services (SMS) Interactive Voice Responses (IVR) and USSD, from a dedicated Farmer Help Service center. The platform is simple and easy to use and with other immense benefits.
Farm aid is setting the pace in digital agriculture through the provision of e- extension and advisory services to smallholder farmers in Nigeria.