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Friday, May 3, 2024

Food security: How tech can tackle challenges in Nigeria - NaijaAgroNet

Nigeria's agricultural sector has long been a significant contributor to national growth, with the potential to further reduce poverty. This sector, encompassing crop production, livestock, forestry, and fishing, has the potential to hold export opportunities and can strategically become the engine for economic prosperity, given Nigeria's large population.
Food security: How tech can tackle challenges in Nigeria - NaijaAgroNet
Undoubtedly, agriculture remains a top contributor to Nigeria's GDP. Statistics show it contributed around 23.69% in 2022, ranking behind the industry (30.78%) and services (22.04%) sectors. However, the sector's contribution has declined.

In the first quarter of 2023, it fell to 19.63%, compared to 21.09% in the same period of 2022 and even lower than the 24.90% of Q4 2022. On sectoral contribution to the GDP, the agriculture sector declined to 25.18% in 2023 from 25.58% in 2022.

In recent times, the agricultural sector in Nigeria has faced challenges that would require urgent need for strategic interventions to address the many-sided issues. 2023 revealed a historic decline in Nigeria’s agricultural output, from the removal of fuel subsidies that increased the cost in logistics and production expenses to insecurity that has forced farmers to stay away from their farms, climate change, the redesign of the Naira, inadequate storage infrastructure, insecurity led to the country's food inflation that surged to 35.41% in January 2024.

While a holistic approach is needed to tackle the problems facing the agricultural sector in Nigeria, the adoption of technology and innovation can prove to be a powerful tool in tackling the food insecurity in Nigeria and ensuring the citizens have access to the nutritious food that they need especially from smallholder farmers.

Digital marketplaces are tech solutions that can bridge the food security challenges in Nigeria. Smallholder farmers often have limited access to markets, struggling to connect with buyers, leading to post-harvest losses and reduced income. They lack efficient distribution networks and constantly work with distribution systems that can be complex and prone to waste. Additionally, farmers lack critical information on market prices, weather conditions and best practices.

Digital marketplaces have the potential to revolutionise the Nigerian food system and address food security challenges by connecting farmers directly with consumers and businesses, reducing reliance on middlemen and increasing profit margins for farmers. Logistics can be streamlined by connecting farmers with transportation and storage providers, minimising waste and ensuring timely delivery. Additionally, there is an opportunity for enhanced transparency between farmers and consumers especially with respect to pricing, reducing exploitation and promoting fairer pricing. Market trends are also easily available through digital marketplace platforms to make farmers make informed decisions.

Nigerian Agritech companies and start-ups are dedicated to helping farmers achieve maximum crop yield through their work. Foodstuff Store exemplifies this commitment, utilising technology to connect customers and businesses with raw and processed food products directly from smallholder farmers and whole food suppliers at affordable prices, adding value to the food supply chain.

Despite the potential, challenges remain. Limited internet access, digital literacy, inadequate infrastructure hindering deliveries, online security concerns, and trust issues for both farmers and consumers need to be addressed.

Investment in rural infrastructure, digital literacy programs, public-private partnerships to promote digital agriculture, and access to financial services like mobile money can create a more efficient, inclusive, and resilient food system. A tech-driven agricultural sector has the potential to not only eradicate hunger but also empower farmers, create jobs, and propel Nigeria towards a food-secure future.

*Contributed by Diana Tenebe, Chief Operating Officer, FoodStuff Store/Editor

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