Prof. Ndubuisi Ekewe, an expert in electrical and computer engineering, has said that doubling productivity in agriculture in Nigeria would reduce extreme poverty by 37 per cent.
Ekewe, made this assertion while presenting a paper at the 2019 Agriculture Summit Africa, a two-day summit organised by Sterling Bank in collaboration with the World Bank and other stakeholders in Abuja.
The summit, with the theme, “Agriculture: Your Piece of the Trillion-Dollar Economy” has over 2000 participants, with representatives from the US, Europe, Asia and several others African countries.
Ekewe said, with more than 60 per cent of Nigerians been employed in the agricultural sector, adopting newer technologies to boost productivity would go a long way in impacting positively on the economy in many ways.
“Agriculture is the place we can have the greatest impact because that is where we have majority of our citizens. So, what can we do but that is where we have the problem.
“What are we going to do. How are we going to have this redesigned, how do we bring capital, how do we make capital available to the farmers. Not just the farmers but to the ecosystem players in the sector.
“The farmers do all the work but most time they do not make a lot of money. The middlemen are now people that buy from the farmers.
“If we have the mechanism to reduce the information asymmetry so that farmers can actually have incentive to stay in the farms.
“I still believe that anything we do in Africa, if we do not make farmers to become business people nothing will work,” he said.
The don, who is the Chairman of a technological company, FASMICRO Group, identfied culture as a major setback for agricultural growth in the country, noting “most farmers in Africa, particularly Nigeria are custodians of culture.
“What do they do? At the beginning of the farming season they take a loan to buy a fowl, goat and then go to sacrifice to the ancestors hoping they would give them pumper harvest.
“Who told them they would make them rich. Unless we change the way we farm, those sacrifices will not translate to bumper harvest. Do we think doing the same thing will change anything?
“It is a shame that the community of farmers is asking government to make them rich.
“Because of that and for the fact of the size of the farms, investors find it difficult to invest. Across human history about 500 years ago, the standard of life was flat across the world.
“Because there was no technology there was no innovation in agriculture, but around 1600 man started using technology GDP started improving for some countries.”
According to him, African was not yet there because it had not brought technology into agriculture.
The don noted that the problem was largely how to get financiers to invest in agriculture, adding that for as long as farmers were not made businessmen the economy would not grow as expected.
Ekewe said his company had come up with technologies that would help improve productivity.
According to him, the company had censors that help in testing soil viability, advise on when to apply fertiliser and could predict weather condition.
He added that there were also cameras that detect diseases in plant, saying “Nigerian farmers should begin to talk to technology and not to dead people.
“Technology is not voodoo. The only way to make it easy for banks to lend to farmers is to embrace technology and it is cost effective.
“Our company is building a model that will record all transactions on the farm and with that one can predict farmers’ productivity.
“With technology we can save up to 17 per cent of fertilising the country because it will help government to distribute fertiliser based on regional needs,” he said.