The federal government, on Friday, said it was planning to distribute free mobile telephones to 10 million small holder farmers to fast track access to farming supports.

Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, disclosed this at the ongoing 2012 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Arusha, Tanzania.

He said that the initiative was designed to start from 2013 and five million female farmers would benefit from it.

Adesina, who was formerly the Vice President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the organisers of the event, said that financing was imperative if the agricultural sector must work.

He said that within 90-days that he assumed office as the minister, the corruption of four decades in fertiliser distribution was stopped by the removal of government from direct procurement and distribution.

According to him, a Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) was established under which small holder farmers were getting partial support for accessing improved seeds and fertiliser.

?To ensure that only legitimate framers get inputs, a bio-metric database was developed with electronic wallet system, for the first time in Africa, through which farmers obtain support from agro-dealers and input suppliers,? he said. ?The system involved 25 seed and fertiliser companies, 25 banks, 900 agro-dealers, 700 redemption centres nation-wide, which generated a database of 4.5 million farmers.?

Adesina said that the system cuts out middlemen and political farmers.

He said that within 30 days, government liberalised the foundation seed production and opened up market opportunities for private companies to meet with the rising demands.

He said that government?s focus was to develop markets for farmers through domestic processing and value addition for rice, cassava, cocoa, cotton, sorghum, oil palm, fisheries and dairy beef value chains.

?Nigeria is pursuing a government-supported private sector-led agriculture transformation; the goal is to industrialised the sector to become more productive, efficient and competitive,? he said. ?And to add 20 million metric tonnes of food to domestic supply and create 3.5 million jobs along agricultural value chains.?

The minister said that in the last one year, 20 per cent commercial scale substitution of cassava flour for bread had been achieved and 1.1 metric tonnes of cassava chips had been exported to China this year.

He, therefore, called for increased financial investments not only from the government but also by private initiatives to enhance agricultural growth for Africa to realise its potentials.

?We need to tap into the rapidly growing pension funds as a potential source of long term capital for agriculture,?? he said.

Earlier, IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze, said that IFAD had potentials to reduce poverty through small holder farming with adjustment in environmental changes and climate variability in all forms of agriculture.

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