Revolutionizing Agricultural Development: Nigeria/IFAD Foster ICT4D Empowerment for Smallholder Farmers

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Ify Onyekwere

In a significant effort to harness the power of digital technology and provide visibility for smallholder farmers in Nigeria, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) partnered with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to host a Multi-Stakeholders Strategic Dialogue. The event, focused on scaling up Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) in Nigeria, took place in Abuja, Nigeria, in May 2023.

The meeting was inaugurated by Dr. Ernest A. Umakhire, representing the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). Dr. Umakhire emphasized the FGN\’s commitment to leverage ICT4D to enhance the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, especially amidst the challenges posed by climate change and evolving economic conditions. He emphasized that ICT4D is an agri-food led and demand-driven initiative aimed at extending digital solutions to farmers, accelerating development in food systems, and addressing supply chain challenges.

Furthermore, Dr. Umakhire highlighted that the ICT4D program aligns with Nigeria\’s National Development Plan and the National Agriculture Technology and Innovation Policy (NATIP 2023-2027). By promoting digital technologies, the government aims to enhance food systems, create business opportunities for economic growth, generate employment for the youth and women, and foster wealth creation in agricultural value chains. He called upon the private sector and development partners to invest substantially in ICT4D to empower smallholder farmers while commending IFAD for its ongoing support to the sector, which has dramatically benefited farmers and promoted national development.

Mrs. Dede Ekoue, the Country Director of IFAD in Nigeria, expressed gratitude to the Federal Government of Nigeria and the FMARD for their partnership. She underscored the importance of ICT4D in equipping smallholder farmers with the skills required to navigate today\’s agricultural systems and practices. Mrs. Ekoue commended the commitment of the private sector, strategic institutions, and partners driving this initiative, expressing optimism that ICT4D would contribute to the transformation of agricultural food systems.

In attendance, Prof. Kani Ike, the Executive Director/CEO of the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Service in Zaria, emphasized the timeliness of transitioning from analog extension services to digital technology and services. He praised IFAD and relevant institutions, particularly the FMARD, for supporting this model. Prof. Ike affirmed his research center\’s commitment to the project, highlighting their partnership with IFAD and other strategic institutions as essential to its success.

The Multi-Stakeholders Strategic Dialogue featured high-level paper presentations, plenary sessions, and group discussions, all aimed at ensuring the integration of diverse voices and empowering smallholder farmers with the necessary ICT4D skills.

This dialogue marks a significant step forward in Nigeria\’s agricultural development efforts. By embracing ICT4D and promoting digital innovation, the FGN and IFAD are laying the foundation for a more resilient and prosperous future for smallholder farmers while contributing to the nation\’s overall economic growth.

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